How to Handle Negative Yelp Reviews
June 7, 2013 - 8:25am
For any lighting showroom, a negative customer review on Yelp can be potentially harmful to business. What's the best way to approach and mitigate this situation?
Steve Sheinkopf, CEO of Yale Appliance & Lighting, publicly comments on negative reviews, explaining what was done to resolve the complaint, so that other customers can see how the store fields criticism.

Yelp is an online business directory and crowd-sourced review site that helps connect customers with local businesses. In the first quarter of 2013, the site had an average of approximately 102 million monthly unique visitors (The New York Times gets about 30 million monthly unique visitors) — so that’s a statistic worth some time.

“Yelp has become a destination for consumers and retailers to connect in a virtual marketplace,” says Nicole Reyhle, independent retail expert and founder and Editorial Director of Retail Minded magazine. “It also lands at the top of Google searches in many categories and markets — it has become a tool you don’t want to ignore.”

If you’re not an active Yelper, maybe you should reconsider. Every business owner or manager can set up an account for free and post photos and company information as well as message customers. Reviews will come pouring in (hopefully) and you’ll get more business than ever.

How to Handle the Good, Bad and Ugly

As customers leave reviews on your company’s Yelp page, it’s a good tactic to acknowledge them — positive and negative.

Steve Sheinkopf, Elite Yelper and CEO of Boston’s Yale Appliance & Lighting, which has a Yelp score of 4.5 with 42 reviews, says he takes the time to respond to all good reviews personally. “I respond to positive reviews in private and say ‘thank you,’ mostly because I’m looking to create relationships with customers.”

Realistically and unfortunately, it’s not all roses, though — the chances that a bad review will rear its ugly head are high. What’s the right move to make?

Yelp recommends that replying to these reviews should be approached with care. Put aside your feelings and think carefully about what you want to write. The site’s advice? “Keep your message simple: thank you for the business and the feedback. If you can be specific about the customer’s experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust.”

Greg Kay, owner of Chicago showroom Lightology, takes the time to personally, and usually publicly, respond to negative reviews on the store’s page.

“I think Yelp is emotional for any owner because they feel personally attacked when they see a bad review,” he explains. “It’s a public disgrace on you and it’s extremely frustrating because there’s not a lot of recourse and you feel almost helpless.”

After Kay pulls the reviewer’s order and familiarizes himself with what happened, he says a phone call to the customer helps tremendously. “People just want to talk to the owner. Most problems go away after this.”

Sheinkopf says that after a negative review is posted and he reaches out to the customer, he always makes sure to add a comment to the post explaining what he and his team did to resolve the situation. “I always apologize. People looking at our page want to see how we respond to criticism.”

Reyhle recommends trying not to let negative comments weigh you down. And, she says, it doesn’t hurt to ask customers to please consider commenting on your Yelp page if they enjoyed your showroom.

Kay says they tried asking for Yelp reviews at Lightology, but the tactic sort of backfired.

“On every order we used to fill, we asked customers to call if they had a problem, and if they had a good experience, to review us on Yelp,” he says. “What ended up happening was that then instead of calling when a problem arose, customers went right to Yelp with their complaints instead of coming to us. We pulled that off the orders and now provide the customer service number and my contact information in case there is a problem.”

More Tips

Yelp veteran Sheinkopf has several pieces of advice for showrooms who are new to Yelp or are trying to improve their scores — claim your page and populate it with photos and information about your store because it’s free; be honest and if you’ve made a mistake, solve the problem; and lastly, look inward to make sure that the negative reviews don’t point toward a hole in your organization.

Rehyhle also advises showrooms to remember one thing: “People who are registered Yelp users and make reviews or post comments on your page have the ability to change comments they have made. Nothing is permanent.”

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