Turn Bad Yelp Reviews into Good Yelp Reviews in 2 Easy Steps

A bad Yelp review is something most business owners and marketers see in their nightmares. There is nothing worse than working to carefully craft a positive brand image only to have it marred by one customer’s negative experiences.

But getting a bad review does not have to be as negative as we tend to think it is. In fact, we can take steps to turn it into a positive. How?

Step 1 = Respond and React

When you get a negative review, view in the light of “how did we wrong this customer, and how can we make her/him happy again?”

A negative review is always a bad thing. Someone had such a poor experience with your brand that they went out of their way to complain about it in public. So the first step is to respond to the person (publicly on Yelp and privately if possible). Find out what went wrong and offer to fix it. Go out of your way to make this person happy again.

Step 2 = Request a New Review

Yelp makes it easy for a reviewer to update an existing review. In fact, it is incredibly easy for any user to turn a past 1-star review into a 5-star review if they are so inclined.

After you have made your customer’s day by fixing their issue, ask if they might take one additional step and update their review. This will reflect positively on your in two ways. First, it will show those who check your Yelp page that you are active in responding to customer complaints. And second, it will add to your overall Yelp rating.

How Many Ways Can Your Customers Contact You?

The good news: there are more ways to communicate with your customers than ever before.

The bad news: there are more ways to communicate with your customers than ever before.

Let’s count them first, then come back to why that is both good and bad news.

  1. Phone calls
  2. Email
  3. SMS/Text messaging
  4. Live chat
  5. Facebook messenger
  6. Chat bots
  7. Twitter
  8. Other social – WeChat, Snapchat, Instagram
  9. In Person (is it weird that I thought of this one last?)

I’m probably leaving some options out. But already there are nine different ways for your customers to contact you.

Why that’s a good thing

Conversations between customers and brands today are far more common than ever before. Consumers are loyal to, and trust the brands that do right by them. They have relationships with brands the we might think of a relationship between friends.

New options for communicating with customers lead to new ways to serve, please, and wow them. And that is an opportunity for your business.

Why that’s also a bad thing

While all these different methods of communication open up new opportunities, they also carry a bevy of challenges for brands. First and most common, there is more to manage. You want to be where your customers are, and that means trying to accommodate as many different channels as possible. But that puts more strain on the departments managing these forms of communication.

Second, there’s more that can go wrong. Customer service is hard enough with only one channel to worry about. We have all seen the kind of PR nightmares that can erupt when one customer has a bad experience. That’s more and more likely to happen the more different conversations are happening.

Embrace it

Some businesses choose to handle this new communication climate by trying to ignore and deny it. And while I conceded that for many businesses, especially smaller ones, it can be difficult to manage all the different communication channels, my recommendation is to embrace them. Your customers have. And the better you serve your customers, the more they will love you in return.

How to Cultivate a Customer Community

Many successful companies have figured out how to put their customers at the top of their priority list. And although almost any company will tell you that’s the case with them, most of them are lying.

I’m talking about companies like Harley-Davidson, who recognized a number of years ago that they needed a new strategy. They had hordes of die-hard fans, customers who would forever be loyal to the brand. But the company was not being loyal to them.

A strategic shift put customers front and center, creating a worldwide community around the brand that helped them turn the business around.

Not all brands are Harley-Davidson, but that doesn’t mean the customer community can’t work for you. Cultivating a brand-enhancing community like Harley-Davidson can be the ticket to increased loyalty, word of mouth marketing, goodwill, press coverage, and more.

To do it requires a fundamental shift in the way your business operates – from who makes decisions and how, to the company organization, technologies, processes, etc. Putting the company first, in practice, is about making them the stars.

First, figure out who your biggest fans are. And find out why they love you. Your goal is to make them happier, and use the tools and products you have that make them happy to grow their ranks.

You can do this with online communities, special offers and exclusive content, meetings and events. You become their advocates, as much as they become yours. Give them the tools to connect with one another and get more out of your offerings.

When you thrill your fans, you turn them into champions for your brand. And when you connect them with one another, you create a movement that can redefine your business.

Do you have what it takes to make this strategic shift?

Embrace Online Review Culture

Yelp was founded in July 2004 in San Francisco, CA. They didn’t invent the online review, itself a reincarnation of business reviews that existed pre-digital age. But they are the most commonly acknowledged online review platform, so I’m using them here as a way of showing how old online review culture really is.

12 years!

It’s been 12 years since people have been leaving reviews on Yelp. And in those 12 years, online reviews have only gotten more common.

Every company gets reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. But not every company treats online reviews the same way. After conducting a little research, it appears that there are four main ways companies think about and react to online reviews:

  1. Ignore it. These are the companies that either don’t know or refuse to acknowledge that their customers are posting reviews online. You can usually spot these companies for their negative reviews that go unheard and un-responded to. I doubt there is much success in belonging to this group.
  2. Fight it. These are the companies who take a firm stand against the customer-is-always-right mentality. They respond angrily to negative reviews which they deem unfair attacks on their business.
  3. Accept it. In this group, companies at least accept that online reviews are valid. They are aware of the main review sites and actively seek to keep their scores up.
  4. Embrace it. In this final bucket of companies, we find cultures that have graduated from simply accepting that online reviews exist to creating a full strategy around them. They respond to people who leave reviews, engaging with fans and detractors alike. They actively pursue reviews from happy customers and they address the problems uncovered in negative reviews.

You can only ignore something so long before it ends up hurting you. With online reviews, your best bet is to embrace their potential to improve your business.

How to Deal with Negative Reviews

Negative reviews of your business or products can be a real stressor for today’s marketers. For one, they are generally seen as outside the sphere of control, and nobody likes feeling like they’re not in control. In addition, consumers today have proven less trusting of marketers’ claims and more likely to research on their own, using reviews as a key source of information before making a final decision.

So as a marketer, what’s the best way to deal with the inevitable negative reviews you are likely to get?

  1. Step 1 is simply to understand that they will come, and be ready for them. Having a plan in place alleviates some of the stress they create.
  2. Step 2 is to acknowledge them, and use them to get better. Not all reviews will be helpful or insightful. But some should open your eyes to key areas that need improvement – such as deficiencies in your product or service processes that can be improved. Create an open system of communicating this feedback to those departments that can do something about them.
  3. Step 3 is to respond. Avoid getting angry or blaming customers. Respond in a way that shows you hear what they are saying and will address it. If there is some way you can make the reviewer happy, do it. Right the wrong, and do it publicly so that your business can get credit for responding to customer complaints.
  4. Step 4 is to follow up. Some review sites, like Yelp, allow people to change a review after it’s posted. If you solve someone’s issues or address their complaints, it is more than reasonable to see if you can get that review changed or removed.
  5. Step 5 is to actively cultivate positive reviews. The best way to avoid negative reviews taking down your business is to make sure the happy outweigh the angry. Solicit positive reviews from satisfied customers in any way that you can. Make everyone who interacts with customers a proponent of the review culture, aware that a positive review is the single best outcome of all interactions. Go out of your way to delight customers and they’ll reward your for it.

The reality is, your company will get negative reviews. Every company does. It’s how you deal with them that will determine success.