What to Do About a Bad Yelp Review


Any retailer or services provider will tell you that Yelp is a blessing and curse. On the one hand, it's a great third party platform where happy, delighted customers can rave about their experience with a business. On the other hand, it's a great third party platform where unhappy, less-than-delighted customers can rant about their experience with a business. For the most part, Yelp reviews fall into either of those two categories. (After all, few people are going to take the time to review an average experience.) 

While most business owners know what to do with good Yelp reviews (promote, amplify, share, feature, etc.), it's those negative reviews that can leave them fumbling. 


Here are five things business owners can (and should) do in response to a bad Yelp review...

Take a Deep Breath

A knee-jerk reaction to a bad Yelp review will likely only amplify the issue. Read it slowly. Then re-read it. Then re-read it again. Extract key details like who wrote it, whom they engaged with (i.e., you, an employee, etc.) and when it happened. Jot these notes down. 

The idea is to piece together the entire series of events, much like an investigator would. 


Then, like an investigator would, get the takes from everyone involved. Do they align? Do they corroborate? A bad Yelp review might actually have very little to do with the customer's actual experience. They could have been simply having a bad day and some minute hiccup pushed them over the edge. 

The point is this: The reviewer's perspective is not the only one that matters.

And Speaking of the Reviewer...

Take a look at their Yelp profile. Are they local? Do they review often? Mostly positives? Mostly negatives? How many followers do they have? Have businesses engaged with a bad review of theirs before? How did it go? This recon work will help you plot a course of action. 


Sometimes all a bad reviewer needs is an apology (even if you didn't really do anything wrong). An apology diffuses and prevents things from exploding further. It gives the reviewer a sense of victory, whatever that's worth.

But perhaps the greater value of apologizing to this one reviewer is who else sees it. Assuming you've probably lost this customer forever (which happens!), the bigger picture here is showing other customers and prospective customers that you engage; that you take the customer experience seriously. 

Think about the last time you saw a business engage with a bad Yelp review. As a business owner yourself, you probably thought, "Good for them." 

In your response, you should also offer to fix the issue. And if there was, in fact, no real issue at all, offering to fix it in some way will often result in a more positive perception of your business. 

Final Tips

  1. Stay Polite - Again, keep focused on the bigger picture of engaging with a bad Yelp review. It's all about the larger audience. 
  2. Stay Timely - If you're going to engage with a negative Yelp review, do so in a timely fashion. Letting it sit for a while could create a perception that you don't care that much. That said, no knee-jerk reactions!
  3. Handle it Yourself - No, business owners don't need yet another thing to worry about, but they should be the ones engaging with Yelp reviewers (positive or negative!) for a few reasons. First, it shows authority. Second, it eliminates the chances of an employee taking the brunt of the customer's frustration. Finally, the wrong engagement, tone, word choice or any other variable compounds the problem. Your business's online reputation is yours.

Have more questions? The PMA community is here to help! Leave a comment and we'll respond!