Should I Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews?

Responding to Yelp Reviews

Your online reputation is like everything else that falls under the cliché  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The real question you should be asking is the more general question:  “Should I respond to my Yelp reviews?”  The answer is YES, you need to respond to your Yelp reviews – for many reasons.  It is an important piece of your reputation management efforts.

Form a Connection

One of the best ways to build your brand and your business is by forming a connection with your customers online. People are far more likely to do business where they feel connected, especially with the owner or management. By responding to reviews, you contribute to the objective of giving your business a face, a real person behind it.

Show Appreciation

You’re thanking your customers for taking the time to do something that benefits you. Showing your customers appreciation is the polite thing to do and can encourage future positive reviews.

Be Proactive

Having an established history of responding to reviews greatly neutralizes any accusations that you only come out of the woodwork to respond to a negative review to attempt damage control. It shows a history of attentive customer service that helps neutralize a negative review.

Negative Yelp Reviews

It happens. You can’t please every customer all the time, and you or your employees will have a bad day once in a while that might generate a negative review.

Even if you don’t have a bad day, you need not look any further than the definition of Yelp to understand the culture that defined the service when it was launched in 2005. There will occasionally be those people who are like a puppy who gets slightly stepped on and lets out a Yelp to let the whole world know they’re not happy about that.  They’re called “Yelpers” for a reason and there is plenty of commentary about that well-accepted name if you Google it.

In their more innocuous form, there are professional Yelpers who strive to attain an official “Elite” status and their 15 minutes of fame from prolific reviewing.  Their reviews might not be entirely inaccurate, but the often lack context.  You don’t write a 500 word critique of the food quality at a chain diner against the standards of a fine dining establishment, and you don’t rate the price of a fine dining establishment against the diner.

So, in a nutshell, it is inevitable. Unless few people are reviewing your business, which shouldn’t be your goal, you will get some negative and/or unfair reviews. When that happens:

Stay Calm

Count to ten first.  If there are employee names mentioned in the review, or dates of the interaction, do some fact-finding about the specific incident, or the general conditions that day (busy, short-staffed). An instant response is not required, and sometimes negative reviews get filtered out after a few weeks.  Lastly, the more important purpose of your investigation is that there might be some valid points in the review and you need to correct the problems that contributed to the negative experience.

Respond Privately First

Try a private response first. This accomplishes a lot. It gives you the opportunity to resolve things with the reviewer and possibly get them to update their review. It also gives you more data points. They might have a legitimate grievance that needs to be addressed. They might be an internet troll that can’t be reasoned with or appeased.  After your data collection and waiting to see if the review gets filtered off your page, it’s time to respond.

Respond Publicly

  • Be polite and diplomatic.
  • Thank them for their feedback.
  • State your policy to correct inaccuracies and do so.
  • Incorporate your fact-finding in a brief and non-confrontational in a way that primarily shows a focus on customer service rather than a hunt for vindication and a closed mind towards any legitimacy to the complaint.
  • Be brief.  If you’re responding publicly it means you weren’t able to resolve things with the reviewer.  The back-and-forth should be taken offline.

Make Yelp your Friend

Many small businesses owners have achieved great success with Yelp.  Another day I’ll discuss the pros and cons of a paid relationship with Yelp, but it’s just like Google.  You can pay for Google Ads to appear in the search results, or you can achieve huge value from free organic search.  You can pay Yelp, or you can manage your free business listing effectively for huge gains.

What isn’t a good course of action is ignoring Yelp, no matter how strong the temptation might be.  Yelp is not going anywhere and it will always appeal to a certain percentage of your customers.  Be proactive, management it effectively, and put invest a small amount of time doing so on a consistent basis.  You’ll be glad you did.