When a 5-star Yelp Review Doesn’t Help Your Business

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If you run a business, Yelp can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Stories abound about the businesses that have been ruined by Yelp reviews. And I’m sure just as many local businesses have flourished, in part because of the positive experience of customers who raved about their experience on the platform.

The truth nowadays is, managing Yelp is a part of managing a business. Whether you like it or not, customers use it. They are going to review their experiences, and others are going to read those reviews when they are deciding whether or not to try you out. So the best thing you can do is have a plan, or a strategy, in place to solicit positive reviews and respond to negative ones.

But not all reviews are built the same. Some have a greater impact than others. And some have no impact whatsoever.

One would think that a 5-star review is a great thing. If you are managing a business, or it is your job to manage the reputation of a company on Yelp, a 5-star review is the holy grail.

Here’s where it gets a little shady.

Over the years, Yelp has consistently changed their policies on reviews. Early on, those business that advertised on Yelp had a lot of control over what reviews showed up on the platform and which did not – giving an unfair advantage to businesses with deeper pockets. A lawsuit ended this practice, or at least drove it further underground.

Today, Yelp relies on an algorithm to determine which reviews are “recommended” and which are not. Reviews that are not recommended are hidden. Businesses can still see them, but they do not show up for users, and they do not impact the overall rating shown on the Yelp listing for that company.

So some 5-star reviews (and some 4-star, 3-star, and so on) don’t count.

Yelp tells companies that a review will not be recommended if it is done by an inactive user. They also say the algorithm will identify reviews that were clearly provided because the company asked for it, anything that looks too much like a testimonial.

(Anyone that can tell me the difference between a testimonial and a positive review knows more than I do about the English language)

Yelp’s official policy is that companies should not ask for reviews from their customers (though they still supply window decals and other signage that suggests the opposite is true). So the only reviews their algorithm is supposed to recommend are the ones that look natural, like a frequent user supplied an unbiased review without any suggestion from the business.

To those of you out there whose job it is to manage a presence on Yelp, I feel for you.

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 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.