Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

5 Easy Steps to Turn a Bad Yelp Review into a Marketing Tool

Online Review sites like Yelp are great to help consumers make informed decisions about who they give their money to. And they’re also an amazing marketing tool, giving small local businesses a chance to gain word-of-mouth momentum no ad money can buy. But because this review service is a wide open platform for expression by anyone, it also also means any grumpy customer can slam your business, affecting your reputation and damaging your sales. The good news is you’re not powerless.  You can do something about getting a negative review... and, for reasons I'll reveal in a second, getting a negative review can actually be a big blessing in disguise – BOOSTING your sales – provided you handle it the right way. So, if you’ve had a cranky customer slam you on Yelp, here are 5 steps to get them back on your side and win over even more customers in the process…

1) Get Active About Regularly Reviewing Your Profile Don’t just wait for a friend to give you a heads up or stumble upon a nasty Yelp review. Schedule time regularly to look at not just your Yelp profile, but also those of your competitors, to get a general idea of what your customers’ experience is. Some disgruntled customers might give an unnecessarily bad review that is hurtful or unhelpful, and those can be addressed. But one oft-overlooked advantage of patrolling your profile is that you can use it as (mostly) unbiased and free market research. If you have consistent compliments or complaints about one aspect of your business, you can identify areas you need improvement in or get an idea of what it is that your customers are really enjoying. Plus, your presence will show that you are genuinely interested in your customers’ feedback, which helps strengthen your relationship.

2) Dig Underneath The Complaint When you come upon a negative review, take a moment to consider what is really prompting it — there is often a seed of truth in  complaints. Yelp is defintiely plagued by anonymous trolls venting about things out of your control, and you can look at the reviewer’s profile history to determine whether or not you should attempt to remedy their grievance, but do take the time to weigh each complaint equally and look for an opportunity to resolve the issue. No matter whether you think a negative review is justified or not, I recommend you post a response to it. If you don’t – it’s also sending a message to your future customers that perhaps you don’t take client care so seriously.

3) Send a Private Message If the complaint looks like it has legs (ie: there’s a genuine grievance here and not a Yelp troll just moaning about things outside your control), direct message the reviewer first. Apologize and acknowledge their complaint (don’t try to make excuses), let them know you value their feedback and business, and offer a specific way to make it up to them. Also provide a direct contact number and let them know you’d be happy to help them personally, now and in the future. This personal gesture creates accountability that they may have not felt earlier. Even if they don’t respond, you can know you put forth the effort.

4) Always Post a Public Response If the reviewer was unresponsive to your personal message, leave a public response — not a rebuttal — letting them know you appreciate their feedback, are sorry for their experience, and that you sent them a message with your contact details and would be glad to talk to them to resolve the issue. Even if the customer doesn’t change their mind, this lets everyone know you value their feedback. But don’t ever request a reviewer to change their review (in a public or private message). Happy customers who are active Yelpers will often amend their reviews for you.

5) Go Get More Reviews To Help “Bury” The Bad One The best way to up your rating (and combat those negative customers) is to get more reviews. Let all your customers know you encourage and welcome their feedback. You can advertise in-store and on your website that you offer special discounts or incentives for customers who can show proof of a review — though, again, do not request positive reviews. This shows you are actively interested in two-way communication with your customers — and that’s customer service gold.