How to Deal with Bad Yelp Reviews

Bad Yelp reviews can destroy your business. Bad Yelp reviews drag down overall Yelp ratings (number of stars). And every half star is precious. The vast majority of businesses benefiting from Yelp have 4 stars or more. If you get just 1 bad Yelp review with 1 star, it takes you 3 more 5-star reviews to average out to a 4 star rating. It takes 7 more 5-star reviews to average out to a 4.5-star rating. And it takes a whopping 16 more 5-star reviews to balance out the 1 bad Yelp review and just barely round up to a 5-star rating.
A 1-star increase in your Yelp rating can boost your sales by up to 9%, according to a Harvard Business School study. That’s just a nicer way of saying you can lose up to 9% of sales to your competitors if you lose just 1 star from your Yelp rating. The same study found that a business that has all positive reviews loses 13% of its sales as soon as it gets its first bad Yelp review. Ouch! Imagine what several bad Yelp reviews could do to your business!

Check out “How Yelp Marketing Increases Sales” for more information about Yelp marketing, how it affects sales, and how to think strategically about your Yelp presence.

Turn Bad Yelp Reviews into Opportunities

Sometimes you can get Yelp to remove a bad review, but not often. Yelp only removes reviews if they meet certain criteria. They remove reviews from reviewers who have a conflict of interest. They’ll also remove reviews if the reviewer isn’t a customer and bases their review on the experience of someone else they know. And they remove reviews that include inappropriate content, including private information about employees or other patrons. They’ll also remove reviews if a court order compels them to do so. Otherwise, they generally don’t remove reviews. If the review is factually wrong, they won’t remove it. They don’t want to get into the business of deciding who is right and who is wrong.

So if you can’t remove most bad Yelp reviews, what can you do? Answer: Turn lemons into lemonade.

Drown Out Bad Yelp Reviews with Good Yelp Reviews

The best way to deal with bad Yelp reviews is to get lots of good Yelp reviews. Drown out the bad Yelp reviews so they don’t drag your overall star rating down. Check out “How to Get Yelp Reviews” for tips on how to increase the number of positive Yelp reviews you get on a regular, ongoing basis.

Lose 1 customer, win 10 more

After you’re getting lots of positive reviews to drown out the bad reviews, you’ll still need to deal appropriately with the bad reviews.

The key to dealing with bad Yelp reviews is to realize that the reviewer is not your primary audience. Your primary audience is actually all the people in the future who will read your response to the bad review. They will become your customers only if they think you treated the reviewer with respect and offered great customer support or helpful information. In fact, your response to a bad review may speak louder than the bad review itself.

Always make sympathetic, helpful responses

Use these tips when writing a response to a bad review:

Always respond – Don’t ignore bad Yelp reviews. Show the world you care for your customers by always responding.

Give thanks for feedback – Always thank someone who gives you a bad Yelp review for their feedback. Negative feedback helps you learn how to improve your business.

Sympathize sincerely – Acknowledge and sympathize with the reviewer’s pain. Even apologize if it’s appropriate. Don’t apologize if you didn’t cause their pain, but still acknowledge the pain and sympathize sincerely.

Be respectful – Never show disrespect toward the reviewer, even if they’re disrespectful to you and completely in the wrong. People who read your reasonable, respectful response to an irate, unreasonable customer will love you for your professionalism and sympathize with you more than the irate reviewer.

Fix the problem (if you can) – The best response to a bad Yelp review is to fix the customer’s problem. Even if you didn’t cause the problem, you’ll be a hero for helping them fix it anyway.

Inform if you can’t fix – The second-best response is to offer helpful information. Suggest other businesses or products that might fix the problem. Or at least help them mitigate the problem if it can’t be fixed.

Explain, but don’t excuse – Explain your perspective only if it helps the unhappy customer. Don’t explain your perspective just to justify your actions. Be very careful not to come across as making excuses.

Use Bad Yelp Reviews to add authenticity

“Authenticity” is the silver lining around the otherwise dark storm cloud of bad Yelp reviews. Believe it or not, you actually want a few bad reviews.

Consumers  are pretty savvy these days. They know that some businesses hire armies of slave labor from the third world to write fake reviews. So they actively look at your reviews for any sign that you have fake reviews. If they see just one or two they suspect as fake, they won’t believe any of your reviews, no matter how authentic the other reviews are.

If a business has nothing but 5-star reviews, consumers start suspecting foul play. You want to have a few bad Yelp reviews to make sure all your good reviews are credible.

So don’t despair if you get a bad review every now and then. It actually helps you.

Just be aware that, for every bad review you get, you need to get many more good reviews to keep a 4-star, 4.5-star, or 5-star rating. The real problem to watch out for is not bad reviews, but a bad ratio of good reviews to bad reviews. And again, the best way to control this ratio is to drown out the bad reviews with as many good reviews as you can get. Check out “How to Get Yelp Reviews ” for more tips on how to boost your number of good reviews.