A bad Yelp review. Now what?

Yelp Social MediaIt is a business owner’s worst nightmare.  They look on Yelp and find their business has been slammed by an anonymous critic for the entire world to see.  Your blood boils and you are determined to have this removed immediately.  Next you begin to go down the list of ex-business associates, angry customers, and/or ex-employees you think would possibly write something like this.  Obviously, the last possible conclusion an owner is likely to come to first is; could this be true?   Regardless of the validity of the review, your response should be the same.

Do not overreact to the bad Yelp review!

As humans, our default setting is that of fight or flight.  However what makes us innately human and different from most species is the second before our natural animal instincts kick in when we have the ability to choose our reaction.  What we choose to do will make the greatest difference in the outcome.  Because many would choose to fight, often their response is to write the critic a nasty email, or post a response defending and/or denying the negative allegations.  While this may initially feel good, you could not choose a worse response.

Allowing your anger and initial thoughts of rage to cause you to pen an overly defensive response which will literally live in plain view for the entire Internet to see… forever… is not the way to go!

Ask Questions and Seek Understanding

One of the best things about negative feedback is it can often pin-point an on-going problem in your organization.  It may be a rude receptionist, slow service complaints, or the wrong product was delivered.   If the same issue keeps on popping up, you may actually have a problem.  Sometimes it is not that easy, and the cause of the negative situation is not clear.  In these cases, ask more questions.

Asking more questions does two things.  It allows you to gather more useful information about the issue at hand.  More importantly, it makes the person who had the problem feel as if they were heard and that you actually care.  Both of which can help you immeasurably!

Offer an Apology and Offer to Rectify the Situation

Right or wrong, offering an apology will often get you further, regardless if you are right.  In fact, insurance companies are now taking advantage of “saying sorry” to greatly reduce their litigation costs and improve their bottom lines.  It turns out that many malpractice lawsuits can be resolved quicker and at less of a cost by having the doctor admit to the mistake and offer a sincere apology.  When people never admit they are sorry or at fault, this tends to enrage the patients and put them in a “going for blood” mode.  The same holds true for Yelp reviews.

Posting a response apologizing for the bad service, product, or oversight can have a very powerful and positive affect on both the reviewer and potential customers.  In some cases offering to buy a dinner, refund money, or other peace offerings may be appropriate.  Remember, offering to pay or refund an unhappy customer’s money does not always mean they will take you up on your offer.  Some people may be very satisfied with a simple apology.  Now instead of a negative and defensive response living forever on the Internet, you have a professional and caring response for all to see.  In the best case scenarios the “negative poster” may actually update their post and give you higher marks for your thoughtfulness and genuine caring.

What If the Negative Yelp Review is From a Disgruntled Employee or Competitor?

It happens!  You fire a guy for being chronically late and the next day, there is a negative rant about how you have rats in your kitchen, a drug-abusing bartender, and a manager who is a sexual harasser.  First step, see Step 1. “Do not overreact to a bad Yelp review”… sound familiar!  Step two, flag the review!  There is a little red flag in the bottom-right corner of every review.  Use this feature sparingly.  Flagging every negative review, will get you flagged.  In an ideal world this type of negative employee reaction would never happen, but we know how that goes!


Yelp is a great tool for both marketing and attracting potential customers and improving your business.  Even the best businesses fall on their faces sometimes resulting  in sub-standard services or products.  However, the major difference is in your reaction to the Yelp review.  Trying to verbally annihilate the offending reviewer may annihilate your ability to grow our company at its fullest potential.  Taking the high road will always pay better returns on through the strengthening of your customer relationships and revenues!

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