Customer relations: 7 tips for handling negative yelp reviews

Receiving a negative Yelp review isn't the end of the world. Here are 7 steps you can take to maintain your business's reputation—and maybe even get the review removed.

by Marcia Layton Turner
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

Although business owners may lament receiving a negative review of their company's products or services on Yelp, the truth, according to the popular business-directory site, is that poor reviews are relatively rare. And having them changed is a real possibility if you follow some customer relations guidelines.

Person in suit wearing a paper bag with a drawn-on sad face over his head with a thought bubble filled with negative phrases

Of the 184 million Yelp business reviews recorded as of the first quarter of 2019, nearly half (49%) were five stars—the best possible rating. Only 16% were one-star reviews.

Perhaps even more interesting, 71% of customers would recommend the companies they reviewed, while only 22% wouldn't. The remaining 7% of reviews were removed by Yelp either at the customer's or the business owner's request.

So what do you do if you happen to receive a negative Yelp review?

1. Get the whole story

You've already heard, through Yelp, how the customer viewed their experience with your company. The next step is to ask the other parties involved.

When faced with a negative review, Andrew Rohr, president of MSS Cleaning in Denver, meets with “the technician who did the work, as well as my director of operations, so that I can hear everyone's side of the story."

Ask employees how accurate the reviewer's depiction is or what might have led to a poor review.

2. Address the negative review immediately

Speed is key here. It shows you care.

Start by thanking the customer for their feedback, because that's really what a negative review is. Responding to the customer in a timely manner demonstrates to other Yelp users that you take such feedback seriously and don't like hearing that a customer had a bad experience.

3. Respond to every review

Develop the habit of commenting on or replying to every review given to your business, positive or negative. It shows that you're engaged and concerned with customer satisfaction.

“You have a chance at converting new customers reading through your bad reviews just based on how you respond or reply," says Jake Lane, director of growth at NuWash Mobile Car Wash in Texas. “As long as you provide a heart-felt apology or sensible response, most new customers will overlook the bad experience of the other user."

4. Move the conversation offline

“If you receive a negative review and you decide to respond, the most important thing is to move the conversation offline," says Amy Jauman, chief learning officer for the National Institute for Social Media. Via email, you can thank reviewers for communicating about their experience and ask for more details you can share with your organization to ensure the problem doesn't crop up again. Plus, “this moves any additional negative details they may want to share off of a public platform to a private one," says Jauman.

5. Fix the mistake

Offer the customer a redo. If the service you provided wasn't up to their standards, do it again. Or send them a gift certificate for a free meal, service, or replacement product. Make it right.

6. Ask the customer to change the review

“Customers want to be heard and they want you to genuinely care," says Rohr. Once he has addressed their concerns and made a serious effort to correct the problem, he apologizes again and explains that the company's online reputation is very important to the success of the business. Then he “asks nicely if they will remove the negative review. If you do that, nine times out of 10 the customer will agree to take down a negative review," he says.

Reputation is everything when running your business, and having a negative review removed or changed to positive can have a big impact.

7. Request the review be removed

Even if the customer refuses to revise a negative review, Yelp itself may. If the review violates Yelp's content guidelines, that's a reason for it to be taken down altogether. If the review has inappropriate language, mentions irrelevant information, or uses it as an opportunity to promote the customer's own business, Yelp will likely remove it if you request it.

Even if you're not sure if it violates the content guidelines, it doesn't hurt to ask.

While spotting a highly charged negative review on Yelp may cause some initial panic, “negative reviews aren't always bad," says Logan Brown, CEO of Broadmoor Marketing. “Receiving critical feedback is how you find flaws and find ways to improve."

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Marcia Layton Turner

About the Author

Marcia Layton Turner

​Marcia Layton Turner writes regularly about small business and real estate. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Bu… Read more

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