No matter how great your customer service may be, bad reviews are inevitable. You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. When a negative review happens, especially on the ever-popular Yelp, it can really hurt your business, though.
So what should you do about it?
One of the most common questions asked about review sites like Yelp is this: “How do I remove a negative review?” The fact is, you can’t. Any reputation management company claiming to have an “in” with Yelp is bending the truth. Even if the review is false, it is extremely hard to get Yelp to remove it.
It makes sense. If they started removing bad reviews, legitimate complaints would get swept up in the deleting frenzy, and the overall picture of companies on Yelp would be skewed. Even if you pay for advertising on Yelp, you can’t remove a negative review.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all.
Don’t look at negative reviews as a bad thing, because this is an opportunity to let your customer service skills shine. Responding to a negative review will show potential customers that you are listening to your concerns.
Make sure you have a reputation damage control plan so whoever sees the negative review for your company first knows how to handle the response. Then, make sure you follow this plan for dealing with negative reviews online. The key? Be polite, avoid confrontational language, and include contact information so you can deal with further complaints privately.
This post is a great source for learning the art of apology, which is especially helpful when dealing with negative reviews.
Sometimes, you’ll come up against a completely false review on Yelp. Unfortunately, Yelp is still of little help in these cases, and cannot help you remove the review most of the time, unless it is blatantly false.
Responding to the review politely is still your best bet, though you also have the option of speaking with a lawyer to legally force the removal of the review. Please note that I am not a lawyer and nothing here should be taken as legal advice – if you truly want to explore this option, talk to a lawyer who has experience dealing with Yelp review cases.
A word of caution: this is usually a very expensive endeavor and doesn’t make sense in most cases. Because Yelp reviews are anonymous, you have to first subpoena the records to figure out who left the review so your lawyer can send a cease and desist letter. If the court goes to case and the judge finds in your favor, you can then get a removal order to send to Yelp. This process takes weeks or even months.
Often, you are better off simply allowing the false review to remain on your listing. Like with legitimate negative reviews, this is an opportunity to let your customer service skills shine.
Even though Yelp won’t help you in most cases, there is one type of review they will remove: reviews that break their rules. Yelp’s Content Guidelines specify that reviews cannot include the following:
According to Yelp’s guidelines, you also cannot post a review if there is a conflict of interest, but this can be extremely hard to prove unless the reviewer comes out and says, “My brother owns a pizza shop in the area that is much better than this one!” or something similar.
If you see a negative review that breaks one of these rules, you can flag the comment to report it as inappropriate. Yelp is pretty good at removing these comments, but it may take some time to see any action on it.
The absolutely best way to deal with negative reviews on Yelp is not to try to have them removed, but rather to overwhelm your listing with positive reviews. Yelp discourages businesses from asking customers to leave reviews, but you can have a sign near your register, on your website, etc. that direct people to your Yelp listing.
Remember, people are typically more likely to leave a review when they have a strong, negative feeling and want to “warn” others. By reminding people that you’re on Yelp, you’ll get more positive reviews as well.
Listen to feedback. If more than one person says that same thing, you probably have a problem that needs to be addressed. Give your customers the best service possible, avoiding the same mistakes in the future. That way, a few bad reviews on your listing really won’t matter. Instead, readers will see the overwhelming number of positive reviews about your business.
One last note: Keep in mind that not every review site has the same policies as Yelp. However, as a rule, any reputation management company claiming that they can remove negative reviews on any website is not being honest with you. They can file requests on your behalf if content doesn’t follow the guidelines, and they can help you come up with creative ways to get more positive reviews from happy customers, but they can’t actually remove a review – only the review site in question can do that.
So, before you pay for any service, read the fine print carefully, and make sure that anything a reputation manager does on your behalf follows the review site’s guidelines. Dealing with negative reviews the right way might take more time, but it is worth it in the end.
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.