How to Survive a Bad YELP Review
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How to Survive a Bad YELP Review


It’s hard to escape negativity and the internet doesn’t make it any easier for small businesses to avoid negative reviews. Websites like YELP have a reputation for rocking the proverbial boat and causing fallouts so unbelievable that they’ve even resorted to death threats.  With  the recent popularity and increased use of public online review sites like Yelp, your business is particularly subject to scrutiny. Don’t let a bad Yelp review take a toll on your business!

If you find yourself the subject of a exaggerated or unflattering Yelp review, there is a right way and wrong way to handle things. There are three basic steps to rectifying a bad Yelp review: respond quickly, take control of your profile, and encourage positive reviews. Remember to remain professional at all times, while responding to bad reviews and while encouraging customers to leave new ones.  The worst thing you could do is to take an aggressive approach and enter into an online “comment war”.  Suing them is also a dramatic step that will most likely not result in the review being removed, but leave you with a hefty legal bill.

A Better Way of Responding

Most Yelp users only take the last few reviews into consideration, instead of reading through the entire collection of posted comments and ratings. Therefore, it’s important to remember that a recent bad review will be seen by potential new customers and most heavily factor into their evaluation of your business.  For that reason, you need to do damage control quickly. The longer the issue remains unaddressed, the more views the bad review will get.

Respond with an apology and a solution.  If a customer complains about being served cold food, offer to fire up the grill for them on their next visit for free.  If you’re in the hospitality business, offer their next night free.  Offering a critic a complimentary meal, room or gift signals that this problem is rare (otherwise you would not be in business because you’d be constantly be giving things away for free!) and not acceptable to your standard for how your business runs. Additionally, Yelp users appreciate when businesses take steps to rectify the problem. Your comment with a solution will balance out the original bad Yelp review.

If you notice a dissatisfied customer while they are still at your establishment, offer to provide them with your email or phone number so they can complain to you directly, instead of posting a public comment.  You can even ask them to remove the comment (via email) if you feel you have resolved their issue.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Build up your online reputation by making extensive use of website’s tools and advice.  Claim ownership of your business on Yelp even if your profile does have bad Yelp reviews.  Once you verify that you are the owner, Yelp will let you start cleaning up and improving your profile.  Begin by taking the overall look of your profile into consideration, first impressions matter online too! Make your profile as informative and helpful as possible with updated information about hours, menu items, specials, and photos.  Take high quality, attractive photos of your business’s exterior and interior, as well as photos of some of your wares. You can even post videos of customers having a great time. This is a new feature, so be one of the first businesses to do so in your area!

When filling out your profile, don’t try to stretch the truth. If you don’t truly have happy hour specials or if your venue isn’t exactly kid-friendly, those customers that came to you for those things will be dissatisfied and likely leave a bad Yelp review.

Moving On Up!

Restoring a Yelp profile riddled with bad reviews is tough but doable.  Know that no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make everyone happy.  Instead, balance out the negative reviews with good! Encourage new and regular patrons to leave new reviews about their positive experience.

Increase the total number of reviews and ratings by offering discounts to customers who show you their completed review or rating. User submitted photos have particularly positive effects on increasing new customers, so be sure to encourage reviewers to take photos. You can also include a Yelp call to action on your bills and receipts to help add to reviews to your profile.

As time goes on, your good reviews will balance out the few poor ones for more positively ranked profile, overall.

In conclusion, stick to this plan of action when faced with a bad Yelp review or rating:

1) Address the problem quickly and offer a solution (discount, freebie, or a chance to speak with you directly).

2) Fill out your profile in the most attractive manner possible to better position and promote your business (attractive photos, benefits like happy hours or kid-friendly).

3) Encourage happy patrons to leave positive reviews via call to actions or discounts.


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