The Ultimate 10-Point Guide to Responding to Bad Yelp and Google Reviews

It’s no secret that Yelp and Google reviews play a big role in how people perceive your business. In fact, since Yelp’s inception in 2004, “yelpers” have written more than 77 million reviews. Fortunately, most of those reviews are mostly positive (about 68%, according to a 2014 Small Biz Trends

article). The negative ones, however, make up 12% — and those are the one people like to pay attention to.

A Punch in the Gut

Negative Yelp and Google reviews can unequivocally be a punch in the gut for business owners. But for regular people like us, those reviews can serve many purposes — from directing our decision to patron a business to producing rabid knee-slapping laughter.

When a customer has a positive experience, they’ll write one review. When a customer has a bad experience, they’ll write 10 — and they’ll do it in epic style; dramatic, rage-filled diatribes designed to hold business owners hostage by their own bad review.

Yelp Reviewers’ Dramatic Tendencies

While negative reviews have a tendency to incite fear among business owners, you can’t help but laugh sometimes at how they read. Perfect example, watch this actor read this negative review.

Funny, right? To you and me, yes.

But to that business owner?  He may be losing sleep at night.

Why Should You Respond

The truth is a lot of business owners receive less-than-glowing reviews. It happens. Sometimes the feedback is justified, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes people just want to complain. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You can’t control what people write, but you can control how you respond to it. And, you HAVE TO respond.


Not all bad reviews are bad for business. In fact, in many instances, a negative review is an opportunity for your business to shine. Plus, you can show current and potential customers that you care enough to respond kindly and fix the problem.

So, now that you know that it’s important for you to respond to negative reviews, here’s a 10-Point guide to responding to those reviews and deal with their fallout.

1. Remain Calm

You’ll read a bad review and your blood will boil. Your first reaction will be a defense one; one that includes a scathing, negative response.

Avoid this at all costs.

Even if the reviewer is wrong, this is an opportunity to show off your customer service. If you are too angry to answer the review, either:

  • Step back and wait a little bit until your cooled off.
  • Hand the response task over to a trusted staff member.

Remember, you always want to answer a negative review from a calm, objective place.

2. Take Ownership

If you haven’t already done so (and this is important!), you need to activate and “claim” your Yelp or Google Business page. This way you will be ready to respond to any and all reviews concerning the business. “Claiming” the page and taking ownership also gives you the opportunity to add information about your business’ services as well as upload photos, hours of operation, ways of contact, and a website address.

3. Don’t Argue

Resist the temptation to retaliate. Responding argumentatively is one of the worst things you can do. While we know your first instinct will be to protect and defend your business, remember that you have the bigger digital audience. Other reviewers will be looking to see what you had to say — and negativity versus negativity never wins.

4. Accept Responsibility

Did you actually make a mistake? Own up to it. People are understanding, especially when you accept the blame. Mistakes happen and when you accept responsibility and work toward a resolution, chances are your customer will be forgiving.

Do not publicly blame the customer, even if it was their fault.

5. Thank the Reviewer

Here’s where sincerity is crucial. Take a moment to express how truly thankful you are for their feedback. After all, customer feedback is one of the best ways to improve a business. If no one ever told you what you were doing wrong, how would you ever know? Thank the reviewer for their comments and let them know that you appreciate the time they took to write the review.

6. Be Diplomatic

Remember, you must remain in the neutral zone while responding publicly. This shows your audience that you can handle conflict, and that you care enough to resolve the issue. The key here is to preserve your public image, minimize the broader consequences, and hopefully win the customer back.

7. Keep Your Message Consistent

Whether you have two bad reviews, or ten, it’s critical that you respond to each and every review with the same tact. Be active on your Google and Yelp pages and respond in a timely fashion to each review, good or bad.

8. Take Heated Situations Offline

It’s important to acknowledge all reviews but, in some cases, for customers who had a bad experience, you might not want to have an online discussion or you risk the possibility of other joining in and causing a huge ordeal. In fact, there have been some instances in which a negative review went viral, causing people from all over the country to leave negative reviews for that business even though they had never been there. This type of behavior can and will damage your reputation.

9. Offer a Solution

Don’t just leave a reviewer hanging with an apology. Offer ways to improve the situation. You don’t need to give specifics; just mentioning that you have some options you think they will like and to call or email you for details. This shows that you are making an effort to make the situation right.

10. Be a Business People Can Trust

Negative reviews are unavoidable. It’s what you do with them that defines who you are as a business. This can have a great impact on your brand and reputation.

Be that business that people can trust by making an effort to respond to all negative reviews calmly and with compassion. Also, take the time to really evaluation all of your online reviews and initiate steps to respond. People will take notice.

Final Thoughts

Remember, Yelp and Google are the perfect platforms for your business marketing. You don’t even have to look for an audience, because these locations are where people come to find you.

Statistics show the reviews affect a business’ bottom line. Consider that when you are responding to them. If you can’t react constructively, maybe you shouldn’t put yourself in a position to react at all.

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