Dealing with Bad or Negative Yelp Reviews

Adam Zetterlund


From large, multi-national chains to mom-and-pop storefronts on Main Street, Yelp reviews have a powerful impact on a business’ bottom line. Modern consumers rely on Yelp reviews to learn about merchants in their local area, make purchasing decisions, and choose between competing businesses. While 5-star reviews help a company stand out and build online clout, negative feedback can send a company’s online marketing efforts into a dangerous tailspin. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to make negative reviews disappear, but business owners have several tools available to them to reduce the backlash these reviews create.

Responding to Complaints Directly

In spite of a business owner’s best intentions, customers will occasionally feel unsatisfied with the service they receive. Many customers choose to vent their frustrations on Yelp, rather than giving a business the opportunity to right the wrong. A highly-inflammatory review reflects poorly on a company’s online reputation, and it sends overall satisfaction ratings plummeting. Whenever a business owner notices a negative review on Yelp, it’s essential to launch into damage control mode.

A public response to a negative review serves two distinct purposes. Firstly, the response demonstrates a company’s commitment to customer service and proactivity. Other Yelp visitors appreciate companies who take the time to address problems and resolve customer issues. Secondly, a response helps to clarify how the customer relationship went downhill. Business owners may choose to explain themselves politely, but it’s important to keep things professional and courteous. Tossing sour grapes at negative reviewers rarely proves beneficial to companies.

Flagging Negative Reviews

While it might be tempting to immediately flag all negative reviews, the Yelp system is intended to help curb biased responses. Abusive Yelp reviews from previous employees and competitors are two prime examples of content that should be flagged. These reviews are posted exclusively with the intention of hurting the business in question. The same principle applies to purchased reviews, which are strictly forbidden by the Yelp Terms of Use. Business owners should keep an eye out for reviews of this nature, but keep flagged content to a minimum. If Yelp feels that a company is flagging too many reviews, the system may flag the company for inappropriate conduct.

Preventing Bad Reviews 

Damage control can greatly reduce the impact of a nasty review, but savvy business owners need to minimize the chances of such reviews cropping up in the first place. One simple way to maintain customer satisfaction is to immediately follow up  with clients. If the customer is unhappy, it’s much better to receive an email full of vitriol, rather than see an angry review on Yelp. To further simplify this process, consider using a tool such as GatherKudos. This powerful resource makes it possible to intercept negative reviews before they reach a service like Yelp, potentially causing massive damage to your online marketing strategy.

The importance of Yelp reviews cannot be overstated. Feedback from previous customers gives other consumers confidence in the services and products that a company has to offer. While negative reviews are an unpleasant occurrence, nearly every business owner will need to confront this challenge at some point. By developing a thoughtful strategy for resolving customer disputes via Yelp, business owners can protect their company from further damage, while simultaneously strengthening the brand’s appeal to other consumers.

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