How to handle a negative Yelp review

A business’ online reputation is important to its success. That’s why, at HubRunner, we follow this general rule of thumb: don’t post anything on the Internet you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. But thanks to the rise of customer review sites like, business owners can’t always control content related to their company.

There are lots of good things about Yelp, including the opportunity for customers to share good experiences and elevate the profile of your business. But what happens when a customer has a bad experience and takes to the Internet? Here are some questions to guide you in how to handle a negative Yelp review.

Have you taken a deep breath?

If not, take a deep breath and step away from the computer. A reactionary, from-the-hip response is never a good idea. Remember Amy’s Baking Company? Yeah. So take a day or two to cool down, pour yourself your favorite drink (we’re sure you can find a locally-sourced, artisanal, organic version of it on Yelp), and remember that at some point, almost every business receives a bad review.

Should you have the review removed?

Generally, the answer to this is no. It’s always best to face customer criticism head on, in an honest, forthright, and accountable way. Yelp will remove the review if it violates the terms of service — if it’s fake or defamatory, promotes another business, or veers into the personal or political practices of the business owner. If the review contains hate speech or other inappropriate content, let Yelp know. But if it’s just a bad review, it’s best to cowboy up and take it.

How should you respond?

Now that you’re calm and ready to respond in a polite, measured manner, you have a few options. Yelp offers both a private and a public response function. Unless you need to correct false information (i.e., wrong prices, incorrect hours of operation, etc.), it’s best to start out with a private response. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to offer feedback, apologize for the poor experience, and address the the issue. Don’t be defensive or passive aggressive. If the issue deserves a mea culpa, offer a mea culpa. If applicable, consider offering complimentary or discounted service. There is an option to update the review, and after receiving your message, the reviewer may update it — but don’t ask or push them to.

Do you know when to disengage?

Hopefully, your message has appeased the reviewer. But if not, it’s important to know when to disengage. If they post another nasty review, don’t respond publicly. All you can do is apologize, address their concerns, and focus on providing the best customer service moving forward. It won’t do you any good to become involved with an unstable online critic. Yelp users are a savvy bunch and they know to take reviews with a grain of salt.

What can you learn from the review?

Consider the review and be objective. Does the customer mention things you can work on? Can you anticipate this problem next time? View negative reviews as a tool to improve your business, rather than a nuisance.