Does it really matter what people say about you on Yelp? Of course, but there are things you can do to help influence your online reviews.
Most B2C businesses have to deal with online reviews, like those found on Yelp, at some point or another. Unfortunately, as one of my friends so eloquently put it, “Yelp is where tact and honesty go to die on the Internet.”
It can sure seem that way. Yelp was recently in the news due to a judge’s controversial decision that users had to give up their anonymity due to claims from the business owner that they were never actually customers. While some see this as a win for entrepreneurs who have been plagued by unfounded bad reviews, most small business owners will agree: it seems crazy to go through the time and money to sue someone for a bad review on Yelp or any other review site.
That said, these reviews can be extremely damaging to your own reputation, so you have to do something. If the first thing that pops up when you name is searched on Google is a page full of negative reviews, will the user on the other end really stop to think critically about whether or not these reviews are true? Probably not. They’ll simply move on to a related local business with better reviews.
So what can you do?
Believe it or not, managing your reputation is less what people say about and more about how you respond. Here are the three steps I always give to clients when they ask my advice about dealing with negative Yelp reviews:
Step One: Nip actual problems in the bud.
Most people who post honest negative reviews online didn’t just have a bad experience with your business; they had a frustrating experience. You can’t please everyone, but when problems do occur, think about how you can make the customer’s experience better. It might be as simple as providing some freebies (even if you think you’re in right), personally apologizing for an inconvenience (even if you think you’re in the right), or giving a discount on the bill (yes, you guessed it…even if you think you’re in the right!). Try to go above and beyond what the person is expecting to rectify the situation. For example, if you mail out a vase and it shows up broken, don’t just replace the vase. Throw in a free candle for their troubles and a personal note letting the person know how valued they are as a customer.
Step Two: Respond to every review – and don’t get defensive.
When someone posts a review, whether it is positive or negative and whether it is true or not, show you’re listening by responding. Say thank you or apologize and make your contact information clear so the reviewer can discuss the issue with you offline. Even if you think a review is phony or unjustified, avoid getting defensive. Doing that will only open you up to ridicule and make you look bad. If you do believe a review to be fake, report it to Yelp privately, but make sure your public response is professional and apologetic. If you hire a virtual assistant to help with this task, make sure they are properly trained to respond professionally.
Step Three: Follow up, and ask your reviewers to follow up too.
The last step is the most important one. If someone leaves a negative Yelp review and you ask them to contact you to discuss the issue, answer the darn email. Don’t pretend you’re listening to put on a good public face but ignore problems when the customer reaches out privately. Work through the issue, making the customer happy if possible. Once you’ve solved the problem, ask them to follow up as well by making an update to the review about their experiences working through the issue with you.
As mentioned, some people will never be happy. In fact, some people go into a situation looking for a reason to complain. It’s nearly impossible to have a thriving business and no bad Yelp reviews, whether they are from actual unhappy customers, or people with other agendas like competitors who want you to look bad. The best you can is respond to legitimate problems as quickly as possible, and remember: if you provide great customer service, the good reviews online should outweigh the bad.
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.