How to Respond to Negative Reviews on Yelp, Google or Facebook

Negative reviews have a direct effect on your business’ bottom line!

Online review sites make it easy for anyone to share their opinion online where everyone can see it. Reviews will have an impact on your business regardless of whether they are true or false, positive or negative. A review might even be completely fake – written by a competitor or a disgruntled employee – and it will still have impact on your business. Research by Harvard professor Michael Luca shows that a one star difference in overall rating can lead to up to 9% loss of revenue. That’s a lot of money!

If you seek to protect your business and maintain its high rating, investing in online review management is imperative to your success. If your business currently has poor reviews, you must invest in online review management to turn it around. Either way, you should be doing something about online reviews. Don’t use the excuse “I have a business to run”. Online review management is part of running a business this day and age.

There are many review sites out there. You are best served by concentrating on the most popular ones where customers are most likely to search for your business. Depending on your type of business this could be Yelp, Google+, Foursquare, Facbook, Urban Spoon, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor or CitySearch. You may have a speciality business that has its own review sites such as HealthGrades if you’re a doctor or SpaHunters for hair salons, spas and beauty centers.

Monitoring, managing and addressing negative reviews on Yelp, Foursquare, Google+ and similar sites requires work, and it’s your responsibility as the owner or manager to make sure negative reviews don’t harm your business. The owners and managers of these review sites have strict policies and rules about moderating reviews. They essentially control which reviews show up first, which reviews get pushed or hidden to later pages, and which reviews get deleted. Very rarely do negative reviews get removed. The onus is on the business owner to prove the review is fake or otherwise violates the guidelines of the review site. Only a few review sites, such as require proof that the reviewer actually visited your business. There are some things you can do to address negative reviews on Yelp, FourSquare, Google+, TripAdvisor, etc. but the best approach is to prevent those negative reviews from showing up in the first place. We can help with that.

Start with claiming your business page on review sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Google+, Facebook etc.

It’s vital that you claim your review site profiles. It gives you back some of the control of the conversation with customers. You can post news to customers, pictures of products or of your establishment and most importantly respond and address negative reviews. Getting into the habit of addressing negative reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Google+ is a skill every business owner or manager must develop.

Once you’ve claimed your online review site listing or profile, you will also be able to continuously update the details regarding your business’ address, phone number and other contact info, product offering, opening hours and more. Whenever those details change, you will need to update them regularly. You should be aware that if your business info is not updated on review sites like Yelp, disappointed customers could leave a negative review just because the info misled. It’s true. Information on a site and profile you did not create can lead to negative reviews for your business. Fair? no. Reality? Yes.

How to claim your business:

1. Go to review site’s homepage and search for your business. For example, go directly to or to Facebook’s homepage. This is your starting point. For Google, you should go to That’s Google’s home page for businesses.

2. Search for your business and go to its page.

3. You will see the option to claim your business. It will be in the form of a link or a button and will have a text prompt such as: “Claim your business”, “Is this your business?”, “Are you the owner?”, “Manage this business page”.





4. The next step will have some information pre-filled, such as your business address as it appears on the site (for example, if your address on Yelp is wrong, that’s how it will appear in this form). Check the information and fill additional information required in the empty fields (most review sites request your email).

5. Authentication process. Most sites will require some form of verification that you are indeed the business owner or the manager and have authority to manage that profile. Sometimes you will fill in a phone number and get a call immediately (this is the process on Yelp and Google+), and sometimes there will be a postcard sent to you with a code via regular (snail) mail. Write down your authentication code to complete the process.

Now you’re ready to take back control of your reviews through responding and addressing negative reviews. You now also gained access to tools that could help remove negative reviews.

Responding to negative reviews

Of course you do your best to provide great service to all customers, but every business makes mistakes. Unfortunately, these days you pay dearly for every negative experience that leads to a negative review. It’s a natural tendency of reviewers to be more aggressive and more negative in case of a bad experience. It’s important not to get angry, but instead to apologize to the customer. Put the emphasis on the negative feelings caused by the bad experience because feelings are what leads to negative reviews. Your apology should be public so that other potential customers will see it and understand how much you care.

You should also reach out privately to the customer, apologize again for the negative experience and explain how the problem occurred. If there was a mistake, own up to it and be honest about how it happened and what steps you are taking to correct the issue and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Customers will appreciate openness and honesty. It may even lead them to remove their negative review from Yelp or Google because they have regained their trust in you. In some cases, customers will update their negative review with a positive comment or change their star rating. This will do wonders to show future customers who read reviews. Turning a negative review into a positive one will go far in improving your online reputation.

What to do about fake and false reviews

It feels terrible to read a negative review on Yelp or Facebook or Google after all the hard work you put in. It’s even more frustrating when you realize a review must be false or fake (The difference between negative fake reviews and negative false reviews: Negative false reviews are by real customers who are misrepresenting their experience; Negative fake reviews are by impostors who were never even customers. Either way, your business is negatively impacted).

If a negative review violates the review site’s guidelines (ex: it has profanities in it) you can report it for guideline violations. You can also try to report a negative review and make the case that it is overtly incorrect. However, your likelihood of success is not high. Review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google, TripAdvisor etc. do not want to get into these arguments. You are left holding the bag.

There are two ways to get those pesky negative reviews to stop ruining your business and hurting your revenues: 1. Get as many positive reviews as possible on public review sites. 2. Prevent negative reviews from finding their way to public review site.

Mission #1: Get positive reviews on public review sites

For every negative review you need several positive reviews to correct the negative impression. Tipping the scale towards a majority of positive reviews will help convince potential customers that the negative reviews are few and far between. When you believe in your business and provide great service, you can be confident to remind customers when they are in the business that you are on review sites and they can leave you a positive review. It’s an ongoing process to educate customers that the best form of gratitude is to leave your business a great review on sites such as Yelp, Google+, Facebook, TripAdvisor etc.

Mission #2: Prevent negative reviews from finding their way to public review site

The second and best way to counteract the effect of negative reviews online is to prevent them in the first place. Intercept negative reviews by making it easy for customers to reach out to you.

A. Put in place a private feedback program so that customers can reach out directly when they have a negative comment. OwnerListens is the easiest to deploy, most comprehensive private feedback program. All customers have to do is send you a text message. It’s easier than logging in to a review, which is what makes it effective. Customers are also more likely to use it because they are reaching the management or owner directly, not just ranting on Yelp or Facebook. There are always people who will go on Yelp and write a negative review but most people are actually good people and prefer to contact you directly and privately.

B. When customers send you a negative review or a complaint, make sure to reply and address it. Be honest and respect the customer’s opinion even if you disagree with it. Apologize for mistakes and compensate where appropriate. This will reinforce the change in behavior you are aiming for: instead of posting public negative reviews, reaching out privately to you.

C. It’s imperative to tell each customer about your feedback program because even one negative review on Yelp or Google can damage your business. Especially today when people look your business up on their smartphone where the screen is small and they can only read the last review. If that is a negative review, they will not come to your business. You need to make sure all your communications with customers addresses what they should in case of complaints. Otherwise, they will go to Yelp or Facebook when they’re angry. Use a tagline like “Got feedback?” or “How can we do better?” or “Before you Yelp, ask for help”. Put your OwnerListens SMS number below it and get ready to enjoy an improved online reputation and higher revenues.
If you need help putting your feedback program together, contact us, or go to to learn more.

Comments (3)

  1. R

    Can a customer reply to your response after you reply to their need?

    1. Eli

      That really depends on the platform, though it is less common for a customer to reply to your response/reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *