How To Respond To Yelp Reviews

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?)

24 thoughts on “How To Respond To Yelp Reviews

  1. These are great suggestions–they all emphasize using the relationship as a way to reinforce good things or solve the problems. I don’t have anybody reviewing me on Yelp, but I’ve made reviews on Yelp, and I certain appreciate responses. Any time a business shows that it cares, I’m more open to it, even if there has been something I didn’t like.

    Your suggestion to “move away from the computer” after a really bad review is a good reminder to take to heart, whether you are reading a bad review or a critical e-mail! I’ve had experiences of responding too quickly and Oh, did I regret it!! So this is good practice for me, regardless of what I am doing.

    Welcome to Blogger Monday, Stephanie! It’s always fun to have new people with different topics and perspectives.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    “My cat owns me, my clutter stymies me, my writing frees me. Word maven loves–and learns from–ordinary life.”

  2. OMG, this is so appropriate for my husband right now, I can’t wait for him to read it! I’ve been telling him some of these things for months now, so I’m glad to have back up. ;-) So many business owners really have no idea on how to handle this, so thanks for sharing this great info. I know a few businesses that are doing a good job at this, @FreshBrothers, but most are not.

    I really like the Yelp card, it’s an after-the-fact incentive so Yelp can’t say the review was solicited.

    Welcome to blogger monday!

    Lisa Vitale

  3. I think the suggestions are not just pertinant to Yelp, but to our responses to client reviews in any venue we receive them. I especially liked the one of walking away from the computer in order to get composed. We never should respond in anger or frustartion because it will come back to bite us even more.

    Great information!

  4. I’ve not bee reviewed on Yelp, but I’ve been a reviewer! It’s interesting to think of both sides. I know that making sure I don’t comment when I’m in a state of anger is important. I have had experience sending an e-mail without stopping and reflecting, and it came back to bite me. That was a good lesson for me.

    I certainly would not trash someone on Yelp, but if I had a really bad experience, I would appreciate a return comment/call.

    Welcome to Blogger Monday, Stephanie!

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    “My cat owns me, my clutter stymies me, my writing frees me. Word maven loves–and learns from–ordinary life.”

  5. I am not a fan of Yelp after an incident a couple of years ago where they canceled my and several other small business owners’ accounts and removed all of our reviews because they decided we were writing reviews for each other that were done as “favors” rather than authentic reviews. Not true! at least not for me; but Yelp would not listen to our protests. I am back on Yelp now as a reviewer and of course our business page, but only because I know how many people do turn to Yelp to find businesses they want to try. I haven’t been as consistent with responding to reviews as you suggest we should be, and will make a point of visiting the site more frequently to look for new reviews so I can respond. We track where all our new customers come from (how they found us, etc.), and what is interesting to me is that we are getting quite a few more new customers from Yelp now than we did when we were paying Yelp to help promote us! Thank you for the advice on making the Yelp experience a little more palatable.

  6. Thanks for your comment Donna. I’m the first to say, sometimes Yelp can be lame. But with its huge audience, we’ve gotta take the good with the bad and just do the best we can, ya know? Great to hear that you’re getting more customers than ever. YAHOO for you!

  7. Thanks, Judy! I think most of us have acted out in a moment of frustration…well, at least I know I have! So you’re not alone! We’re learning how to do this thing called “life” a little bit better everyday, right? Nothing wrong with being a work in progress.

  8. Happy to be your backup, Lisa. We girls have got to stick together! :) Thanks for the warm welcome. Let me know if you end up running with the Yelp card idea. I think it could really work! :)

  9. Thanks for the warm welcome! Like I told Judy, I think we’ve all been guilty at times of acting out in a moment of frustration. The good thing is that we’re all learning and growing…even from our mistakes. I wrote a review on Yelp recently about an ice cream shop. The guy that responded took absolutely no responsibility and solidified my hunch that I should never return to his place of business again. He did the right thing by responding…but his response was so bad, it made a lame experience was worse. The guy should’ve read my blog!!

  10. I’m not actually on Yelp. I never figured out how to do that and am not sure if it would be beneficial for my business. That being said, your points are excellent. I think it’s all about customer service and the tips you are giving are just that – good customer service. I’ve been to places that made mistakes and I don’t fault them for that. I only fault them when they don’t own it and/or fix it. I’m fiercely loyal to a place that owns their mistakes and makes it rights and then, as you said, bends over backwards to make sure I am happy. I will tell everyone I know about how great that place is! I try to do that in my business as well.

    Susan Berland
    A Picture’s Worth

  11. You and I are a lot alike Susan. Fiercely loyal to the companies that do it right, even when they do it wrong initially. Love people that see the big picture! Thanks for your comment.

  12. Thank you for sharing this strategy for handling Yelp reviews. My business has not been reviewed there nor have I been a reviewer. I will bookmark this post for future reference.

  13. I’m on Yelp with my tutoring business, but no one ever uses it!Don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing! My clients pick up the phone and call me or email me if they have issues. If someone did post a bad review, though I would appreciate it and fix whatever the problem was. I use Yelp to review places, but not too often. If I have feedback that’s negative, I tell the manager, owner, etc when I am there. Positive, same thing, I would give someone a second chance if they made it right, if they didn’t – I’m done with them!

  14. I know some that love Yelp and some that are literally waging a war against Yelp…lots of mixed reviews about Yelp…pun intended :-) I don’t actively use it but do appreciate the advice. A third-party review carries a lot of weight…especially online!

  15. Hi Stephanie – I don’t have any experience yet with Yelp but will definitely take a look. The suggestions you make here really make sense. I like the approach of responding to people and thanking them for taking the time to write a review and then showing you are willing to take their points on board. There’s always something in every bit of criticsim for us.

    Fiona Stolze

  16. I have to agree with Molly on this one! I’m not a Yelp reviewer…although I do use Yelp to see what other people have written about a restaurant or service. I have a Yelp account but not many people post reviews there for my service.

    What I love about what you wrote is that this truly pertains to all reviews we get from people. It can be reviews for our 1 to 1 coaching or feedback from our workshops. These are great tips in how to handle the not so nice ones ;) Thank you for sharing.

    Alara K. Castell
    Your Sassy Spiritual Guide

  17. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for this wonderful advice! An eye-opener for me: I’ve been involved with Yelp for several years now, and until now I’ve always regarded Yelp as a passive resource for reviews and recommendations. Your advice shows me otherwise. I’ve written a few reviews and my band has received several 5-star reviews, but I’ve never been thanked for my reviews and I confess I’ve never replied to my reviewers. Until now. I’m mending my ways, now that you’ve shown that a review is a perfect opportunity for positive engagement.

  18. HI As a business owner, I’ve learned to love Yelp. You must approach Yelp knowing that some people just love to complain, and that their comments are not personal!

    We do a few things that stand out with our reviewers:
    1.) I thank people publicly who post great reviews and reward them by sending them a gift certificate.
    2.) I think the people who offer negative reviews and offer them a gift cert to come back and try us again soon. This is a very powerful tactic. Often, business owners either ignore or get argumentative with the negative reviewers. When I acknowledge the reviewers feelings and issues, it softens their feelings about us. Most are SHOCKED when I offer them a gift cert to come back and try us again!

    Good article!
    Owner, Fresh Brothers

  19. I have to be honest, I’ve stayed away from Yelp due to a lot of complaints from fellow business people. I have never used Yelp since I prefer recommendations from people I know. My business is mostly built through referral – people referring people they know. I do agree with your advice on how to handle good and bad reviews – this would apply in any platform.

  20. I haven’t used Yelp…or even heard of it…I know what rock am I living under…lol! It’s staying busy and working with 4 kids I hope. Your tips are great for all those dealing with customer service, and seeing the comments here are spot on for Yelp. I am going to check it out! I like Debbie’s idea of killing them with kindness, and offering a gift certificate to rectify the situation and possibly turn that review around. Thanks for introducing me to something new….I look forward to learning more…and seeing what you all are talking about!

    Rita Brennan Freay

  21. I don’t understand why a business that gets slammed on yelp, doesn’t at least have the opportunity to respond – online so that the viewing public can read – what the actual situation was that caused the discord. I do NOT believe in acknowledging and lending credence to the complaint by contacting that poster and trying to “straighten things out” or rectify the situation. If it’s a restaurant who burned a steak and/or offered up rude service; that’s one thing. But a complaint which isn’t valid (i.e. exemplified by a business having a FIVE STAR rating and, suddenly, here comes a ONE STAR posting) needs to be addressed so that the consumer will know it’s possibly a ficticious, negative review. In the past, Yelp knew how to filter these reviews; especially if the complainer had a “zero”, previous posting on Yelp for any other services or businesses. Now a days, a disgruntled or ill intended family member can post a negative review on Yelp or a competitive business owner who wants to malign a more successful, neighboring establishment; can write whatever they feel like making up and there’s no intercession on behalf of Yelp nor recourse available on behalf of the denigrated business establishment. Shouldn’t we be able to “explain” our negative reviews if our rating is excellent aside from this one person with an axe to grind? I mean, come on….if a person books a hair salon appointment and doesn’t show up despite the 24 hr cancellation policy that they were notified about prior to their visit and they, therefore, aren’t rebooked for future services without leaving a credit card number – does the salon really deserve to be disparaged? Any advice on how to deal with this problem that does NOT involve contacting the negative rating writer?

  22. Every time I logged in as business, I kept getting the video on how to and what to say and yet there was no place I could reply to one of the reviews. Is this designed in a way so the business will sign with yelp?

  23. hard to believe she is alerday one year old!a0 You may remember meeting Camryn Reese when she was born.a0 Or, you may remember Helen’s surprise valentine gift last year to her husband John.a0 But,

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