Watch what your customers say about you online

John Parker
John Parker

Help! We’ve got a negative Yelp!

At least you know. What if people are posting negative online reviews about your business and you don’t even know it? Not good, right?

Here is help for a negative Yelp online review.

Yelp is a free review site that lets consumers rate businesses on a five-star scale. Other review sites that encourage customer feedback and ratings include Google Places,  Yahoo! Local Listings and Facebook Business.

Have you recently looked at the feedback that your customers are giving you? Are they mostly positive (four or more stars) or are there a lot of negative reviews? Do you even know if your business information — address, phone number, services provided, etc. —  is current?

Google maps recently showed the local outlet of a major chain sporting goods store as being “out of business.”  That was a big surprise for the store manager!

Customer opinions are formed and choices are made even before they step foot into your store or call your business. Potential new customers listen to what your past customers are saying. And so should you.

Some may say, “Yelp? What’s that? I didn’t sign up for any Internet gimmicks. Leave me out of this.”

Too late! Yelp, Google and the rest already have your company’s public information posted. So those reviewing opportunities are live and available right now. The important question is, have you “claimed” your business? Type in Yelp and your business name, city and state. Then click the “claim this business” button in the lower right margin.

“Unclaimed” means you have no control over the information about your business and no ability to respond to comments. Here is a comment on unclaimed doctor’s office: “Ridiculous!!!  My mom had spine surgery ten days ago and they are making her and other patients wait almost an hour. What could the doctor be doing?” The physician and staff probably don’t know about these negative review have been posted for all to see.

Claiming your site is free and lets you update photos, contact information and other information to make your site more appealing and accurate. This also allows you to respond to reviews.

Claiming is not a cure all, though. You have to maintain it. A classy local clothing store that had been claimed on Yelp was neglected. Several negative reviews were posted for all to see with no responses from the owner or staff.

Happily, my local auto repair shop claimed its site and has almost all five star reviews. In fact, most of the area’s auto repair shops were claimed and had active review sites.

Denial and neglect are dangerous so take charge of your business review site:

  1. Claim it. Hop in, take the wheel, and get engaged!
  2. Update regularly, with accurate information and attractive photos.
  3. Review it regularly, even daily, to catch all comments.
  4. Respond promptly to both positive and negative reviews.

Responding to negative reviews is challenging. Here are some tips:

  1. Treat negative reviews as you would with a live customer — promptly, calmly and kindly.
  2. Reframe negatives reviews as opportunities for customer engagement.
  3. Remind satisfied customers to post a review of your business. Positive reviews can eventually move a negative review further down and off the front page.
  4. Don’t sue. One business owner took a bad review all the way to his state’s supreme court and lost.
  5. Ask Yelp (or other review sites) for help, but recognize  that they usually leave negative reviews alone. If you want the review site to delete a negative review then you will have to prove the review is blatantly inaccurate. Know that a less than perfect site may seem more authentic and real.
  6. Learn how to use private and public responses.  Private messages (Yelp has a button for that) are best with negative reviews. Public responses need to be kind, simple and humble. When a potential customer sees a thoughtful response to a negative review they tend to sympathize with you rather than the disgruntled customer.
  7. Don’t fake personas or reviews.  Have real people give real reviews.
  8. Don’t attack or escalate. Wait to get calm, then respond.

Now that you have help for negative Yelp reviews, consider taking this to the next level by taking a proactive approach to gaining positive reviews. Who will give you a positive review today? It’s OK to ask them!

John Parker is the founder of Professional Development Adventures and an instructor for the UC Davis Center for Human Services. You can reach him at [email protected]


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