Popular user-review sites like Yelp can be great for businesses, especially small independent companies. In fact, over 1 million Yelp reviews are written per month! Of course, that only holds true if a majority of reviews posted about you are positive. What happens when your business gets a negative review? Even worse, what happens when your business gets multiple bad reviews on a site like that?
Reviews play a large role in almost any industry, including entertainment, health and service, food and much more. Negative reviews on sites like Yelp should not be handled any differently than those you see in another industry, as difficult as that may be to believe. If you see a bad review, it’s no reason to panic and head for the hills. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate the problem and prevent your business from getting a poor reputation.
Rule 1: Remain Calm
A negative review can seem almost like an insult, an attack or affront on your business especially if you’ve made it very personal. However difficult it may be, don’t look at it that way. Even if the customer in question is glaringly mean, it’s a chance to grow and improve. Since no business is ever perfect, negative reviews offer a window of sorts allowing you to see your flaws.
Don’t get angry. Remain calm, and read the review in its entirety. If you find yourself too emotional or enraged, then just walk away for a while. Think about something else, and don’t contemplate reviews at all. When you feel that you’re calm and ready, you can move on.
Rule 2: Act Accordingly
The next step is to act accordingly, which can include one of several different moves.
If you think the writer has violated the site’s terms of service you can flag it for review. On sites like Yelp, a violation can include many different things, such as strong language and more. The important thing to remember is that you should use this feature sparingly. Don’t sort through all the negative reviews and flag them just because you don’t like them. Eventually, someone will realize what you’re doing, and this could be worse for your reputation than any of the reviews that have been published. It’s deceptive and shady, and customers don’t relate to such behavior.
Another move you can make is to respond to the review, but you should always do so diplomatically. Remain professional, polite and do everything you can to address the reviewer’s concerns.
Responding publicly is great for when you want to address concerns laid out in a review that other readers might see. Responding privately is good for when there’s been a problem or customer service issue and you want to make things right, although a public response for such a thing is also acceptable. If you want some more advice on how to respond to customer reviews, Yelp has provided an informative video for doing so.
Rule 3: Be Consistent
If you’re going to respond to a review, then don’t just do it for the review in question and walk away. Instead, remain consistent in your interaction with reviews that are both positive and negative. This does two things: First, it addresses any of the issues that might be expressly stated in these reviews, and second, it allows the public and other viewers to see that your business is reliable and engaging. It shows your customers that you care and you are willing to invest time to listen to their concerns and address any issues that may arise.
Taking time to only respond to the worst and most negative reviews can actually make you look untrustworthy and flaky.
Rule 4: Overwhelm Through Positive Influence
If you notice an influx of negative reviews on a site like Yelp, then something is obviously wrong. Yes, there are always the customers who like to complain for every little thing, but those are actually the minority, believe it or not. Most of the time you won’t even hear a peep from your happy customers, which can be unfortunate.
In cases like that, it’s great to overwhelm the negative feedback with positive feedback. Respond in kind to all of your negative reviews, and do what you can to address any problems your business may have. Encourage your loyal and happy customers to post positive Yelp reviews, to drown out the negative ones. Encourage negative reviewers that you’ve helped to update their reviews accordingly. Keep in mind, that last point does not condone threatening or harassing negative reviewers so they change their statements; it’s not the same thing.
If you’re finding it difficult convincing your happy customers to write a positive review, you can always introduce an exclusive promotion or discount for those who do. Don’t be afraid to get creative. The idea is to drown out or equalize all those negative reviews with positive ones.
Yelp is Only the Beginning
Remember, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of other review sites out there including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, the Yellow Pages, Facebook and much more. Yelp isn’t the only place your customers will be posting reviews, and it certainly won’t be the last. The rules laid out here apply for any of these platforms.