Yelp scares a lot of the business owners I consult. They know it’s a big player. They know masses of people consult Yelp before making their buying decisions. And yet, most of the small business owners I consult with have no idea how to use Yelp effectively. And often, they don’t take time to learn until they get their first bad review. Then, they approach me in crisis mode, with furrowed brows and a quiver in their voice, saying, “I just got a bad review on Yelp. It’s all a bunch of lies. I swear. I think it’s a competitor that’s trying to kill me. What do I do now?” Have no fear, friends! You’re about to learn how to respond to Yelp reviews.
No one is perfect. Even though we both know you’re totally awesome, we both also know, you’re not perfect. That said, you will make mistakes. If you happen to make a mistake on the wrong person, (eeks!) things can get really ugly, really fast. On the flip side, you might be as awesome as ever, and then (scary music plays in the background) your competitor, disgruntled ex-employee or even the grouchy, p.m.s.’d lady shows up determined to dig up something, anything, that’s less than stellar, and tell the entire world about it on Yelp. This is the reality of marketing in 2011.
So what’s a small business owner to do? Rather than waiting for the crisis, develop your Yelp response strategy now. Regardless of if you get a good, bad or ugly review, you need to reply to every Yelp review you get. People are talking about you. You want them to know you’re listening! You want them to know their opinion matters. The best way to demonstrate this is to respond to each and every post.
When you get a good review, let the reviewer know how much you appreciate him/her choosing to do business with you and how thrilled you are that you exceeded their expectations. Invite them to come back in soon to claim their “preferred Yelp” benefit card (yes, you’re going to invent this). Every time they present their card, give them your VIP treatment. If you own a restaurant, give them the best table. If you own a photography studio, give them first dibs on your booking calendar and maybe a free print with every order. You get the idea. Dream up something valuable and give it to the people that are willing to be your unpaid brand evangelists.
When you get a review that presents you as a really mediocre option, respond to the reviewer by thanking them for taking the time to write a review. Then share your concern for their less-than-perfect experience. Tell them you’re paying attention and that you will address their concerns. Invite them to come back to your business and give you another try. Tell them to ask for you personally when they arrive so that you can ensure that their expectations are exceeded. Sometimes, people just want to know they’ve been heard and that you care. And sometimes, once they know that, they’ll jump back on Yelp and modify their review once they know how committed you are to customer satisfaction.
Now, what about those really awful reviews? The ones that just slam you over and over again? What do you do about those? First, take a deep breath and walk away from the computer. You never, ever want to respond to a disgruntled customer when you’re upset. It’s like throwing lighter fluid on a bonfire. Once you gain your composure, re-visit the review. Seriously consider the complaint. Is there any truth to it? Sometimes it hurts, but you still need to hear it. Is there something happening in your business when you’re not there that needs to change? Have you made a mistake that you need to rectify? If so, act on it immediately. Then respond to the reviewer sincerely apologizing for any disappointment you may have caused, tell them what you’ve done to address their concern and invite them to give you another shot so you can make right. Invite them to come back ‘on the house.’ Again, tell them to ask for you personally upon their return so you can personally ensure their experience is nothing other than completely amazing. Also, go above and beyond posting a public response to their concern. Take advantage of the option Yelp offers for you to contact the reviewer directly, re-iterating what you state publicly. Bend over backwards. You goofed. You’re human. It’s okay. Just focus now on fixing it.
And finally, let’s address what to do with the obnoxious reviews. The ones that are just over-the-top ridiculous. They say things like, “I’d rather swim in an alligator-infested swamp than do business with these people again.” Friends, some people get their kicks out of making others feel miserable. Don’t buy into it. And certainly, don’t take it personally. More times than not, the obnoxious reviewers appear to be just as obnoxious to the other readers as they do to you. Normal people don’t consider extreme reviews like these unless they monopolize your page. Also remember, just because you can see this review, it doesn’t mean everyone else can. Yelp has a filtering system for all reviews. It’s a bit random and of course, they too have their ‘secret algorithm’ behind it, however, rest assured that it does a fairly decent job at filtering out unreliable and/or really crazy reviews. However, their filter isn’t anymore perfect than you are, so if needed, consult Yelp directly and ask them to remove it for you. If it really is an off-the-charts obnoxious review, they’ll probably help you out.
How do you think you’ll implement these suggestions into your business? Please comment below to let me know! (Hey! That rhymes! I’m on a creative roll today, don’t ya think?)