Positive and negative Yelp reviews can make or break any business. Yelp reviews tend to attract two types of customers — very happy ones and very angry ones.
In my role as a digital marketing consultant for the hospitality and tourism industries, I've helped clients of all sizes — from mom-and-pop restaurants to one of Chicago's most popular tourist destinations — deal with all kinds of reviews on Yelp.
I'll share my best tips for responding to positive and negative Yelp reviews in this blog post. You’ll learn:
- Who Should Respond to Yelp Reviews?
- How to Establish a Yelp Review Response Protocol
- How to Respond to Positive Yelp Reviews
- How to Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews
- Customer Review Response Examples on Yelp
Let's get started.
Why Should You Respond to Yelp Reviews?
Review sites like Yelp allow customers to tell others about their experience with a business. And how important these reviews are!
In fact, 32.6% of Internet users say that reviews from other customers drive their buying decision. Additionally, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses before deciding whether to patronize them or not.
As these stats reveal, reviews are a vital aspect of the consumer buying decision process, and businesses must learn how to respond to positive and negative reviews.
Why You Should Respond to Positive Yelp Reviews
Here's why you should publicly reply to reviews from happy customers on Yelp.
It builds brand loyalty.
Responding to glowing reviews on Yelp can help you foster your relationship with happy customers. You are building customer loyalty by acknowledging customers who are taking time out of their busy lives to help boost your business. When you leave even a simple response to a positive Yelp review, you make your customers feel heard and appreciated.
Think about the last time you left a positive comment on a brand's social media post, and they took the time to respond. You probably felt like the brand (or the people behind the account) cared about you, which led to increased good feelings about the company. This same theory applies to acknowledging customers who review you on Yelp. Happy reviewers will feel delighted and will turn into brand evangelists who will spread the word about your business to their friends and colleagues.
It attracts new customers.
In addition to building customer loyalty, you can also attract new customers using this customer care technique. Any digital interaction you have with a customer is public and represents your brand's personality. Your brand can delight customers, or it can just feel corporate and impersonal.
If you work in the hospitality industry as I do, you know that many people check Yelp and other review sites before trying new restaurants, salons, and other service and hospitality businesses. If you're looking for sushi restaurants in Boston and come across two with identical ratings, similar menus, and similar reviews, seeing how the business responds to other reviews may help you decide where you're getting dinner. A restaurant that ignores positive reviews may come off as unappreciative to have your business. A restaurant that responds to positive reviews may come off as charming. Which restaurant would you choose?
Now, let’s take a look at the reasons you should reply to negative reviews — and also why you might not want to.
Why You Should Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews
Here are some things to think about when considering responding to negative Yelp reviews.
It's an opportunity for customer recovery.
Engaging with customers who had a poor experience with your business on Yelp is an opportunity for customer recovery. It's your chance to turn a negative experience into a positive one. You can find out about customer complaints on Yelp and solve them by following up with unhappy customers. Doing this could lead to revenue-generating benefits for your business.
An upset customer could edit their rating of your business after you follow up with him or her to solve the problem. According to Harvard Business School, even a one-star rating increase on Yelp can generate 5-9 percent more revenue for your business.
It's a chance to win over new customers.
Responding to less-than-stellar reviews on Yelp is also an opportunity to win over new customers. If a customer reads a bad review but sees through your reply that you've gone above and beyond to fix the problem and show the customer you care, potential customers will see how you would resolve a similar situation if it happened to them. Put yourself in the customer's shoes—wouldn't you rather see a bad review on Yelp with a resolution than an unanswered complaint?
It's important to note, however, that responding to negative reviews on Yelp could have some downstream negative effects.
Responding could highlight negative reviews.
Reviews on Yelp are sorted not in chronological order, but by "Yelp sort," which sorts reviews in an order that is supposed to help users make the most informed decision. "The order is determined by recency, user voting, and other review quality factors, which is why an older review may appear before a newer one," according to Yelp. Responding to a negative review might affect Yelp's sorting algorithm and could potentially show a negative review higher on the page. However, responding to positive reviews should counterbalance this.
Responding could be a waste of time on unproductive or fake complaints.
Sometimes unhappy customers can be petty online and try to pick a fight with you to get an undeserved refund. While most complaints by customers are legitimate, be wary of customers who will try to waste your time for a few dollars.
Overall, though, companies that respond to negative reviews on Yelp are perceived as transparent and open to receiving customer feedback.
Now, you might be wondering if you can avoid responding to negative reviews by removing them instead. Let’s find out.
Can I remove a negative Yelp review?
No. If you receive a negative Yelp review that you suspect could be fake or defamatory, you can report the review to Yelp for them to consider removing it. Yelp will usually only delete or hide negative Yelp reviews if they don't believe they’ll be helpful for other Yelp users looking for information.
Keep in mind that Yelp usually falls on the side of the reviewer and will likely not delete a bad review. To combat the impact of a negative Yelp review, you could encourage happy customers to leave you positive reviews.
Successful reputation management for your business requires having a system in place to ensure the reviews get read and responded to, and that feedback gets to the right place. Next up, we’ll take a look at how to set up a protocol for responding to Yelp reviews at your company.
How to Establish a Yelp Review Response Protocol
1. Decide who will be responsible for responding to your company's Yelp reviews.
First, you have to decide who will be responding to customers who leave Yelp reviews. This will vary depending on the size of your business.
At a small business or a startup, the founder or owner may be the best person to respond to Yelp reviews because they’ll best know the company's voice and what is going on internally. Seeing customers' feedback will also help the founder implement changes to the product or service.
As the business grows, the founder will likely not have enough time to respond to every Yelp review personally. In this case, have an intern or junior member of the team shadow you and practice responding on your behalf before taking over. Have them flag and pass along any questions they can't answer.
If you are at a larger company, you may want to assign responding to Yelp reviews to one of three teams:
- Customer Success: Your customer success team already knows how to solve problems for your customers, understands the brand voice, and has a protocol for reporting customer feedback to someone who can improve the product/service your company offers. With a little extra training, your customer success team can add managing your company's Yelp profile to their duties.
- Marketing or Communications: Your marketing or communications team knows how to speak on behalf of your brand, and they may already be responding to questions and reviews that come in through social media. Train them on FAQs about your product to ensure that they have all of the information they need to engage with customers through their Yelp reviews.
- An External Agency: Digital marketing agencies specializing in reputation management can be an excellent solution for taking care of your online reviews when you need to outsource. Marketing agencies are adept at mastering their clients' voice, handling a high volume of reviews, and being more objective while responding to negative reviews.
Whatever the size of your company, you will want someone with proper training in your brand voice, your product, and FAQs responding to Yelp reviews.
2. Create a company style guide and knowledge base.
If your company doesn't already have a style guide, create one.
A style guide is a document that contains all the vital information about how your organization or brand communicates. Without a style guide, your communication on Yelp (or anywhere else) won’t reflect what you stand for as an organization, as it would be inconsistent and unclear.
If the team responding to reviews does not work closely with your product, make sure they have everything they need to answer questions about the product by creating a knowledge base or FAQs for your team to use and add to.
3. Use Yelp review response templates.
Create response templates that address common issues, questions, or problems. Copying and pasting canned responses will become apparent to anyone who reads more than one review on your Yelp profile.
I recommend pasting response templates into your response box on Yelp and then using slightly different wording each time.
These free review response templates offer you an excellent start.
4. Relay the feedback to your company’s leadership.
Create a system for reporting feedback from Yelp reviews to decision-makers at your company.
You can use presentation slides or create a dashboard with insights to present to your management team, whether in-person or through video conferencing software.
After you've implemented a system for responding to Yelp reviews, you're ready to start responding to those reviews.
How to Respond to Positive Yelp Reviews
Is it worth responding to positive Yelp reviews where customers are praising you? Yes!
With customers likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews, harnessing the power of positive reviews is definitely worth your time.
These dos and don'ts will help you write a stellar response to a stellar Yelp review, no matter what kind of business you run or work for.
Without further ado, here is my formula for responding to positive reviews.
1. Read the entire review.
You may be tempted to skim over four- or five-star reviews, especially if they're long, but don't be hasty when reading Yelp reviews. Sometimes a customer will give your company a high rating but address a real concern at the end of the review. Make them feel heard by addressing valid problems.
2. Greet the customer by their name.
It’s important to personalize your response with the customer's name. By doing so, you show your customer you care about them.
Using a customer’s name also evokes an emotional response and creates feelings that make them like you more. In addition, greeting customers by their name leaves a positive impression and makes it more likely for them to recommend you to their friends and family.
3. Personalize the response.
Your customers (hopefully) aren't copying and pasting the same review they wrote for the nail salon down the street for your day spa. Using a response template your team has created is totally okay, but don't forget to customize them to make your customers feel special.
I suggest mentioning something from their review so they know you read it thoroughly. This also lets them know you’re not sending a canned response.
4. Thank them for taking the time to write a review.
Considering that your customer has taken time out of their schedule to praise or write something good about your business, it’s only fair that you thank them.
Your “Thank you” note will motivate these customers to keep spreading good word about your business. And while you’re at it, also thank them for being a customer and let them know you look forward to seeing them again.
5. Offer to do more for the customer.
Even though the customer is clearly happy with your business or your service, it's a nice touch to include in your reply an offer to do more for the customer. Make it clear that you welcome their feedback anytime and take it seriously.
6. Surprise and delight the customer.
To go above and beyond, your reply could also offer to get in touch with the customer offline to send them swag, treats, or a discount offer.
By now, you should be a pro at responding to glowing Yelp reviews, which will make your customers have warm and fuzzy feelings about your company. It's time to move on to what keeps every reputation manager up at night: negative Yelp reviews.
How to Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews
The sheer cost of negative reviews makes it imperative to respond to most of them. Consider this: A staggering 94% of consumers report that a bad review has stopped them from buying from a business.
Responding to negative Yelp reviews requires tact, training, and discipline. In the best case, your response to a negative online review could turn a one-star rating into a five-star rating, win back a customer who's written off your business, and show potential customers how you solve problems. A defensive or poorly thought out response to a bad review could keep away the unhappy reviewer, and scare away potential customers.
In my marketing career serving the hospitality and tourism industries, I've dealt with many online reviews. These are the best practices for responding to negative reviews based on my personal experience and Yelp's best practices.
1. Be timely.
53% of customers expect a response to a negative review within a week. So follow up with the customer as soon as possible so that an unhappy customer doesn't write off your business completely and so that potential customers don't see an unresolved issue.
2. Address the reviewer by name.
Similar to when responding to positive Yelp reviews, you also need to use your customer’s name when replying to negative reviews.
Addressing the customer or reviewer by name lets them know that you care about them and what they have to say. It also demonstrates that you take your business seriously and can handle or resolve their complaints.
3. Mention something positive from their review (if anything).
This will show the reviewer that you carefully read the review, and will also help bury what they are complaining about so that it's not the first thing potential customers notice when reading your response.
4. Apologize for what went wrong.
Sometimes, you might need to issue an apology when a customer writes negative reviews about you on Yelp.
For your apology letter to work, you need to do more than just say sorry. You’ll need to admit your faults, offer an explanation of what happened to calm the customer, give clear next steps, and follow up with the customer.
5. Don't pick a fight.
While bad reviews might hurt and make it look like you’re not doing your job well, it’s crucial not to dwell on them or pick a fight with your customer.
Instead, maintain your professionalism and don't get argumentative with customers. Remember that you can use their negative feedback to highlight some areas in your business that need fixing.
6. If appropriate, make the situation right.
A warranted complaint deserves action, but make sure that your customer isn't trying to nickel and dime you to get an unjustified refund or concession. To address a real concern, follow up with the customer, but do so in a private message or ask them to email you. Make sure to mention that you are resolving this offline in your public comment so that potential customers don't read the review and think you ignored the problem.
7. Explain what went wrong and how it won't happen again.
This shows potential customers that preventative measures are being taken to ensure this situation won't happen to them.
8. Make it clear what you did to resolve the issue.
If you solved this problem in person (while the customer was at your place of business) but the reviewer didn't mention it online, address how you resolved the issue in your public reply to the Yelp review so that potential customers know that you followed through.
9. Track trends in feedback.
If you notice any patterns in the negative reviews your company is receiving, listen to the feedback and see how you can change something in your business to create a better experience for your customers.
10. Don't take negative reviews personally.
This is when it's good to have someone who is not the owner responding to reviews.
Here’s a great example of how not to take negative reviews personally.
Now you're all set to tackle whatever concerns your customers raise on Yelp. Let’s summarize how you can respond to a bad review on Yelp.
How do I respond to a bad Yelp review?
- Be timely.
- Address the reviewer by name.
- Mention something positive from their review (if anything).
- Apologize for what went wrong.
- Don't pick a fight.
- Make the situation right.
- Explain what went wrong and how it won't happen again.
- Make it clear what you did to resolve the issue.
- Track trends in feedback.
- Don't take negative reviews personally.
Customer Review Response Examples on Yelp
Now that we've established why you should be acknowledging happy customers by addressing their reviews on Yelp, it’s time to look at some examples.
1. Positive Yelp Review Example: Restaurant
Here's a made-up example of a positive review for a restaurant from Alex B. of Cambridge, MA.
“Taco Time is my go-to spot for lunch in Harvard Square. These are the most authentic tacos I've had since moving to the East Coast from L.A. Don't miss the carnitas and horchata!”
Here's how Taco Time might respond to this Yelp review:
“Hi Alex, we're delighted to hear that you're a fan of our carnitas! The recipe has been in our family for generations. Thanks so much for spreading the word and for writing a review. Our business depends on regulars like you! We hope to see you again soon, Alex!”
2. Positive Yelp Review Example: Veterinary Practice
Here’s a real-life example of a positive Yelp review and response for a local veterinary practice.
“The staff is so amazing here! I can trust what they say and not hear the classic ‘we need to run more tests.’ Their prices are very fair! The staff really seems to care and take an interest in what is going on. The doctor takes his time answering any questions and never makes you feel rushed or that you’re a burden being there. I’m so glad to have found a vet close by that is so wonderful!!!”
“Hi Tami, we’re so happy that you’ve had a positive experience with our staff. We believe in transparency and we work hard to keep our prices affordable, so we are really happy that that comes across. Thank you for the positive words!”
3. Positive Yelp Review Example: Phone Repair Shop
Here’s another positive Yelp review example to consider — in this case, of a phone repair shop.
“I noticed I was losing the charge on my Moto G7 phone too quickly. Each cable I used to charge the phone wouldn’t connect, even after I cleaned the port. In the past, I used the services of a cellphone repair shop in Silver Spring, but saw that it was more interested in taking my money than diagnosing the issue.
I used Yelp’s quote service and Allan responded that he could make the repair and quoted a price. I made an appointment for that evening, dropped if off and picked it up the next day. Allan even diagnosed the issue I was having with the speaker and microphone, even though I hadn’t mentioned it. I am very pleased to have my cellphone working well again.”
Here’s how Allan responded to the review.
“Great to hear the phone is back in good order. We also repair computers and tablets. Reviews like this are literally like oxygen for us and we wish more customers would take a minute to write them. Thank you for your business.”
Here are some fictional examples of negative reviews your business may encounter on Yelp, as well as examples of responses based on the above formula for responding to negative reviews on Yelp.
4. Negative Yelp Review Example: Hotel
Brad D. of Seattle, WA left this 2-star review of a hotel in Hawaii.
“My wife and I chose the Wailea Inn for our honeymoon. As a special surprise for my bride, I decided to splurge on the breakfast-in-bed package, which looked like a luxury experience based on what I saw on your website. We were both extremely disappointed when the breakfast arrived at our door in a brown paper bag and to-go containers instead of on a silver platter and china, as was shown in the pictures on your website. We tried not to let this ruin our stay, but it was quite disappointing. Besides this, everything else was as-pictured on the website, and we loved the private beach.”
Here's how the Wailea Inn could respond to this Yelp review:
“Hello Brad, thank you so much for choosing the Wailea Inn for your honeymoon. We are so glad that you enjoyed access to our private beach. We are sorry to hear that you felt our breakfast-in-bed service was not as described on our website. We work hard to ensure all of our guests have a fantastic experience while staying with us. We would like to make this right and have sent you a direct message so that we can resolve this issue.”
5. Negative Yelp Review Example: Museum
Allison H. of New York, NY recently visited the New York Robotics Museum. Here's what her 1-star review on Yelp said:
“I visited the museum last Saturday afternoon. After arriving at the museum with three hungry kids, I had to head straight to the cafeteria to appease their hunger. I was horrified to find a hair in my son's chicken nuggets. This was completely unacceptable. This was my first and last visit to this museum.”
Here's an example of how the Robotics Museum could respond to Allison's review:
“Allison, thank you so much for choosing to spend your Saturday with us. Our cafeteria team takes hygiene very seriously, so we were both shocked and sorry to hear about your lunchtime experience. We are reviewing our kitchen's protocol to make sure that this does not happen again. We also spoke with our cafeteria manager, Rex, who informed us that his team replaced your family's meals for the inconvenience. We hope that you enjoyed the rest of your visit and that you would consider visiting us again.”
6. Negative Yelp Review Example: Car Wash
Here’s Anthony’s Yelp review of a car wash and how the company responded.
“I brought my car here for the first time this afternoon and got the manager’s special, which was $30.99. About 40 minutes later, I get the car back and noticed that the driver side floor mat was not vacuumed thoroughly, nor was the middle cup holder. When I took a second look at the outside of the car shortly after, I noticed that there were still plenty of tree sap stains on the top of the car and that it didn’t look as clean as I would expect.
The service provided by the staff were great, and the place has quite a charm to it. As a whole, however, I can’t say I was satisfied with what I paid for.”
Here’s how the car wash company replied to this negative review.
“Thank you, Anthony, for your review. We take all reviews seriously. I am sorry that we didn’t take care of your car to our regular standard, and I’d like the opportunity to make this right. If you are out and about near the car wash, please feel free to return today so we can clean your car to your satisfaction! Please ask for me (Debbie). I will review our camera so we can learn how not to have this issue again! Again, I’m sorry you weren’t satisfied, and I do hope you will give us another try.”
Always Respond to Yelp Reviews
Yelp helps your customers feel heard and appreciated. Responding to Yelp reviews is your way, as a business, to turn happy customers into evangelists and recover unhappy customers.
Think of your Yelp page as an extension of your customer service team's efforts, and your business will reap the benefits.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.