There it is, your first negative Yelp review. You can’t believe it. You might even be thinking, “How could someone write something like this about my business? Are they trying to put me out of business?” We have worked with a lot of businesses and understand that negative Yelp reviews can hurt your pride, and your business. But it doesn’t have to. If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you can turn this negative experience into an opportunity to win a customer back. Even in the worst-case scenario, you can demonstrate to future customers how much you value them and want to make sure they are happy.
Step #1: Remove Your Emotions
When you are responding to a negative review, whether on Yelp or another online review site, you need to make sure you are responding unemotionally. Take a step back and try to understand where the customer is coming from and why they might feel frustrated. Don’t think about who is right or who is wrong, this is a time when you need to approach this with a “customer is always right” attitude. If you try to defend yourself or say they are wrong, it is only going to make the situation worse.
Step #2: Take It Offline
When you do respond, try to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible and deal with the situation via phone or email. Yelp doesn’t make it easy to communicate back and forth and most people appreciate a phone call over a Yelp message. I recommend responding privately on Yelp, apologizing that they had a frustrating experience and asking them if there is a good phone number where they can be reached. This will allow you to talk to them and get a better understanding of where they are coming from.
Step #3: Accommodate Their Requests
Once you establish what they are upset about, figure out what you can do to make them happy, and then do it. Even if it costs you money, or is against your policy, do what you can to give them what they want. If you want them to update their review (more on that in a bit), you need to make them feel like you understood their concerns, addressed it in a timely manner, and made up for it in some way. If you are a restaurant, offer them a free meal. If you are a retail store, give them a gift card. Going above and beyond will turn their negative experience into a positive one. Don’t worry about the money either. At this point, you shouldn’t be as concerned with the profit of this particular sale, but with what this might do to your future profits. Think of spending the extra money as a marketing expense.
Step #4: Ask them to Update Their Review
Once you have resolved the issue and feel you have given them what they wanted and made them happy, it’s important to ask them to update their review. Be careful here – don’t ask them to give you a better review, simply ask them to update their review to reflect the experience they have had since they first reviewed you. Most of the time, if they do update their review, they will give you a better star rating.
Lets say you receive a negative Yelp review and it’s from someone who you have already spoken to and there is nothing you can do to make them happy. Maybe their requests are unreasonable, or maybe it’s a situation that is too far gone. If that’s the case, then you need to think more about how your response will look to future customers. Even though you might want to tell the person off, that is going to have negative consequences. Instead, write something that says you are sorry they had a frustrating experience and that you value them as a customer and if there is anything you can do in the future to change their mind about you to let them know. You have to take the high road for this to work out in the end. You want future customers to look at this and understand that you do care about your customers. How you deal with a negative review will show future customers how you will deal with them, should something go wrong.
Getting a negative review is never fun, but if you handle it the right way, you can change the outcome. If they are writing a bad review, they are giving you the opportunity to make it right. Take that opportunity and act on it. Online reviews are becoming more and more important, so the better reviews you have, the better it will be for your business.
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Photo credit: @eliteballettheatre