An increasing amount of today’s consumers take to the Internet to research businesses and products before deciding how to spend their money. They read reviews on sites like Amazon, look for recommendations from their friends on social media, and in the case of local businesses, they read the advice of others on Yelp. This means that if you’re a local business owner, your customers are already talking about you on the site.
And although shining reviews are a great way to build a reputation online, negative ones can keep potential customers from even giving you a chance. Thankfully, a quick and appropriate response can show Yelp users that your business is worth visiting. And with the following five steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a stronger Yelp reputation.
1. Claim your business page
If you haven’t used Yelp yet, the first step to responding to reviews is claiming your business page. All you need to do is search for it on biz.yelp.com and click “Claim this Business.” If your business isn’t available to be claimed, you can find more detailed instructions on Yelp’s support website. Even if no one has left any reviews on your page yet, it’s best to set up as soon as possible.
This gives you the control to update the page with your correct phone number and address, add photos, and respond to reviews as quickly as possible in the future.
2. Really read the review
If you’re already halfway through typing out an angry response to an unfair criticism of your business, stop. Calm down. And put away your keyboard.
Take some time to really read the review, and consider it from the writer’s perspective. Are their complaints valid? If you weren’t present when they visited your business, could your employees have acted less than professionally?
If someone leaves a negative review, they had a negative experience with your business. And as much as you may not want to think it, you need to consider whether you or your employees made a mistake. Either way, you have an important decision to make.
3. Choose how to respond
Once you’ve taken the time to understand the customer’s complaint, you need to decide whether to respond publicly or privately.
Although it may be tempting to immediately correct an unfair comment publicly, doing so can sometimes make things worse. You might think you’re pointing out why their criticisms are wrong, but really, you’re just showing other visitors to your page that you’re unwilling to listen to customer concerns.
Instead, start by sending the reviewer a private message addressing the issues they had with your business. Users always have the option to revise reviews, and if you show them that you appreciate their comments, they could revise their review and improve your rating – along with your reputation. Give them a day or two to respond.
And if they don’t, it’s time to move to your next option.
If a reviewer ignores your message or responds in a way that indicates that they have no intention of being reasonable, it’s appropriate to leave a public response. This will show other Yelp users that you care about your reputation and take steps to address customer issues, even if it’s as simple as encouraging them to contact you with any issues.
Keep these other users in mind as you write, and maintain a professional but caring tone. And although it should go without saying, never be rude or mean to your customers, even if they insulted your business.
4. Provide a solution
In the majority of reviews, customers point out a specific problem or problems. That problem could be a bad experience at your restaurant, a poor product from your company, or sub-par customer service from one of your employees. Regardless of what that problem is, you need to provide the solution.
In some cases, you can offer to make up for their poor experience by inviting them back with a discount or refund. In others, you may need to ask for more details (like the name of your employee or the day of their visit) to determine the appropriate action. Regardless of whether you do this publicly or privately, there needs to be more than an apology in your response.
Sure, a customer might appreciate your willingness to admit a mistake – but that won’t give them any confidence that it won’t happen again.
5. Focus on building a positive reputation
Now that you’ve addressed issues on your Yelp page, it’s time to think about how you’ll handle the site going forward. And although providing timely responses is an important step, you should also do what you can to build a positive reputation. Of course, it’s essential that you provide great products and services to your customers.
After all, this is the basis of what they review. But unfortunately, many users don’t think to leave Yelp reviews unless they’ve had a negative experience. Encourage happy customers to leave reviews by placing flyers or stickers around your store and linking to your business page from your website and social media accounts.
As you do this, though, remember that it’s never a good idea to try to incentivize reviews. (Check out for a more detailed explanation. Trust me on this – it will only end up harming your reputation.) As you begin to accumulate reviews, you may fall into the same habit as many other business owners: Focusing on and responding to only the negative reviews.
But as someone who relies on happy customers for success, letting them know that you appreciate their feedback and are glad that they had a positive experience can go a long way.
How does your business look on Yelp?
If you’re a local business, your customers are already talking about you on review sites like Yelp. So what are they saying?
Claim your page, take a look, and start taking steps to improve your online reputation today!
Trevin serves as the VP of Marketing at WebFX. He has worked on over 450 marketing campaigns and has been building websites for over 25 years. His work has been featured by Search Engine Land, USA Today, Fast Company and Inc.
WebFX is a full-service marketing agency with 1000+ client reviews and a 4.9-star rating on Clutch! Find out how our expert team and revenue-accelerating tech can drive results for you! Learn more