How to Handle a Bad Review on Yelp

“A negative review from a Yelp user can certainly impact your business, but if you prepare yourself and respond well to it, you can get past a bad review, unscathed.”


Even if you have the perfect business with outstanding customer service, you will encounter less-than-complimentary reviews from time to time. Sometimes you deserve the negative feedback; other times, you don’t. The fact is that some people just want to complain. There is no reason why you cannot maintain a good attitude, while saving face at the same time—even in the face of a bad review. The key is to handle it productively and constructively.


Since its inception in 2004, Yelp has grown from a simple platform—not unlike the Yellow Pages we used to see in old-school, ink-and-paper phone books—to one of the top websites of all time, said to have the ability to “make or break” a small business. A negative review from a Yelp user can certainly impact your business, but if you prepare yourself and respond well to it, you can get past a bad review, unscathed. Here are some rules-of-thumb on how to deal with it, learn from it, and move past it.

1. Don’t be Argumentative

When someone writes a negative review about your business, your first instinct may be to retaliate. Resist this temptation. Let’s be honest; if you are a small business owner, then your business is your baby. It is natural to feel hurt, angry, and even defeated (if you’re the real sensitive type) when somebody writes bad things about your business. Do not respond to negativity, with negativity—this will mar your image even further because, for one thing, you will come across as petty and unstable. You have to remain professional and above any negativity that your potential customers may see in online reviews, as well as in the larger media, press, or really any content that concerns your business, on the web or otherwise.

So if being argumentative is the thing to avoid, then how should you respond? Stay calm, and once again, be professional. If one of your customers came into your store or office, in person, and began yelling and raving about how bad your service is, would you yell right back at them and start hurling insults? Probably not; that is not how a professional business handles unsatisfied customers. You are not in a street fight with these people—they are your customers, good Americans like yourself—and there is a good chance that you may even be able to turn them back into your favor, not to mention conveying a positive image to future customers.

2. Listen and Learn

Like any other outlet that provides you with feedback from customers, Yelp reviews (especially negative ones) can reveal how you can improve or adapt your business. Was a Yelp user dissatisfied with a product they bought from you? That is a signal that you may need to take another look at your product quality because odds are, more customers whom you have not heard from are having the same experience. A Yelp user giving a bad review is not the enemy; but you can become your own worst enemy if you fail to heed the concerns of your customers.

3. Redeem Yourself by Responding Publicly

Yelp gives you the option to respond to a user either publicly, or privately. After a bad review, it is probably not the best course of action to take none at all, and it behooves you to respond. Ideally, it is a good idea to respond publicly, as well as sending a private message. A personal greeting which thanks this user for their business and apologizes for their negative experience can constructively supplement a thoughtful public response for everyone else to see. You won’t be able to win over every disgruntled customer, but you can minimize the fallout from a bad review by calmly and considerately making an effort to show goodwill toward them. Again, negative reviews are unavoidable, no matter how carefully you run your business; however, your public image will be preserved if you consistently respond to the concerns of your customers.


4. Do Better Business and The Public Will Notice

Negative reviews may be unavoidable—I do not know of any business who did not receive at least a little negative feedback—but the bottom line is that if you make the effort to improve all aspects of your business, then your customers will not have anything to complain about (as mentioned previously, some people just have to complain). Taking quality seriously is the mark of a truly world-class business. Take the time to carefully consider every detail of your business, again and again, as you perpetually strive to be the best you possibly can be, and people will notice. Your customers are no fools—when you run everything conscientiously, with attention to quality in every element of your business, they can tell the difference.
It is an undeniable fact the Yelp has the peculiar capacity to sway the opinion of the online community toward your business, but don’t lose heart when you get a negative review. The key to surviving bad reviews is simply to remain calm, pay attention to your customers, learn from their feedback, and just be professional. Every business has to deal with negative feedback eventually; sometimes it’s just your turn.


Here is another article on dealing with tough customers:
How to Handle Difficult Customers: Know When to Hang Up



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Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieHow to Handle a Bad Review on Yelp