"Yelp! I've Gotten a Bad Review - Now What?"
We understand your plight. Used to be that when you or your employee had a bad day that affected a customer or a product malfunctioned - you only had to worry about who that individual could tell in their circle of friends. Now with the advent of the internet and jumbo review sites like Yelp.com - you have to worry that one bad experience could haunt you for the rest of your career (or worse lead to the end of it)
So what do you do when your business gets a bad review on user sites like Yelp?
Step 1 - Breathe & Step Away
If you're an entrepreneur, it's only natural that you will take a negative review personally. This is normal however it can make responding the right way more difficult. Even if the review is completely wrong or overly hurtful - this is not the time to get into an argument online. This is why we recommend stepping away for an hour or a day to cool off . You'll feel much more in control and prepared to respond properly.
Step 2 - Review Your Customer Service Policy
While you're cooling off, you might review your policy for handling issues that come up during face-to-face service issues. How would you handle an unhappy customer who asks to speak with the manager? What would you say? Apply this same logic to how you want to handle an unhappy online reviewer.
Step 3 - Respond Diplomatically
Now that you're ready to respond. Be civil and professional. Remember they reviewed your business, not you - therefore your business is responding. You may not care about what people think of you but what others think of your business will have reprucussions.Try to show empathy and concern for the reviewer's feelings and show you care. Offer a solution when appropriate. Review sites like Yelp offer free review response tools to allow public or private responses. A private message is akin to sending a direct email to the reviewer whereas a public comment will be posted directly under the user's review and is visible to everyone.
Responding with a public comment can be a great option to shed light on the specific situation or show your willingness to rectify the issue.
Step 4 - Continue to be Engaged
Actively read and respond to future reviews, both positive and negative. People like to know that their comments are heard and appreciated by a business. Remember that you will grow as a business as you consider criticism and make changes that improve your customer service. Continue to tell your clients and customers to share their positive experiences on sites like Yelp and soon the good reviews will outweigh the bad ones.
"I'm too emotional to respond?" If you find that it is too difficult to calmly address online reviews then it might be necessary to appoint someone else (an office manager or trusted employee) to manage reviews.
"The review violates the site's policy?" If you think a review violates the review site's terms of service you can flag it for evaluation by the site's support team. Again, a negative review does not violate most policies so be sure you educate yourself on types of reviews that are likely to be deleted.
"A review is missing?" Sites like Yelp rely on an algorithm that determines which reviews will be displayed on a business's page on the site. Sometimes positive and negative reviews wind up in a filtered section, leading business owners to think reviews have been deleted. Reviews from users who violate Yelp's policy and have had their account removed may be deleted altogether without any action by the business.