Customer reviews are one of the most important social signals for any business, because they tell the unvarnished truth about how your products and services are being perceived by customers. Well, almost. Happy customers will readily tell you when they are thrilled, but only a handful will then go online and tell others. Customers who leave your business with a negative impression are more likely to tell others by posting online, either to their social media friends, or to a larger audience.
Bad reviews hurt. As business owners, we are personally committed to our work. We try to do our best at all times, and we strive to please everyone. When a bad review comes along, it often feels like a personal attack. Frankly, there is a tendency to go on the defense, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do. A defensive response has the potential for making things worse by prolonging the dialog and opening yourself to more criticism.
The secret to responding to negative reviews is to keep in mind that your response is going to be read by other potential customers, and they are the ones you are really writing your response for. You may never see that unhappy customer again (why would you want to?), but if your response is polite, and indicates that you have taken positive action to correct whatever problem they experienced, then the next person who reads both the review will take your response into consideration when deciding whether or not to visit your establishment.
Yelp has commenting guidelines that they provide to businesses who have claimed their review page, and they offer a helpful perspective. I believe it is good to thank customers for leaving positive reviews rather than staying silent, as it signals to others that you do read your reviews, but I also generally agree with their advice on all other points. The following is taken directly from Yelp’s commenting guidelines:
What are public comments?
Public comments are a way for business owners to add a helpful comment to a user’s review.
When should I comment?
Responding to reviewers’ concerns shows that you value their feedback and that you’re always striving to improve. We recommend commenting in order to:
- Tell the community what you’ve done to address a specific concern raised by a reviewer.
- Provide correct information when a review contains something inaccurate or out-of-date.
- Provide your version of a difficult situation when you’re unable to resolve a dispute through private messaging. Remember to be polite and stick to facts since your comments are public and can be seen by potential customers.
What should I say?
Just keep it simple and polite. Yelpers appreciate honesty and like to know when businesses are making changes based on their feedback.
Are there times when it’s better not to comment?
Yes, sometimes it’s to your advantage not to comment at all.
- If you’re upset, you might write something that will reflect poorly on your business. Wait until you’ve had some time to think about a review; there may be legitimate concerns brought up in the review that you can address in a constructive way.
- If you want to thank someone for a positive review, send a private message instead. Comments that simply thank users without providing new information can be perceived as overbearing.
What if the review is completely false? Can I say so?
Sure, though we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.
Does Yelp ever remove public comments?
Rarely. But in some cases a member of the Yelp team will remove a comment (and will typically email the writer to let them know) if it doesn’t adhere to some common sense social norms that we like to think of as yelp-worthy behavior. So please avoid the following:
- Personal attacks. No name calling or belittling your reviewer. Even if the original review was offensive, customers expect you to take the high road.
- Advertising. This is not the place for promoting unrelated offerings or events.
- Incentives. Don’t offer gifts or other incentives in exchange for a more favorable review. Even if it’s well-intentioned, it can be perceived as dishonest.
If a review is suppressed by our automated software system, both the review and the comment will be suppressed.