Getting negative reviews can sting. (Trust us. We know.)
But how much weight should you put into a negative review?
Yelp isn't the only review site out there, and the ability for people to share their opinions online isn't going away -- it's only becoming more commonplace. Business owners are much better served getting involved in a conversation about their businesses than burying their heads in the sand and pretending it's not happening or railing against its existence.
Yelp (and many other consumer feedback platforms) allow you to respond privately or publicly to reviews. We recommend starting off with a diplomatic, private message expressing regret that the customer didn't have a 5-star experience. Even if it doesn't result in the reviewer upgrading or removing their review, it can't hurt to post a polite public response that says, "Molly says our bar closes at 9 pm, but we're actually open until midnight. Thanks for the review, Molly, and sorry you didn't have a 5-star experience!"
In most cases, a negative review here and there isn't something to lose sleep over. That said, if you receive ten reviews in a row noting that the bread is stale, you might want to take stock of the situation. Maybe the reviewers are on to something, and it's time to look at a different bread vendor or better communicate why your bread tastes the way it does.
Above all, put your emotion to the side, resist the urge to point fingers, and do the smart thing and engage reviewers diplomatically.
Three Things You Didn't Know About Negative Reviews
1. Most reviews on Yelp are actually positive -- about 85% are 3 stars or above. In fact, this is pretty consistent across the Internet: when people share information about an experience or product, it's often because they're happy.
2. This may seem counter-intuitive, but negative reviews can actually be a good thing. Some savvy consumers are actually suspicious of businesses that sport an unblemished record. On average, a restaurant with more than 20 reviews and a 4 star rating on Yelp has three times more page view traffic than a restaurant with more than 20 reviews and a 5 star rating.
3. No one takes the negative review as seriously as you do. Your prospective customers are sizing up the reviews and the reviewers just as much as they are sizing up your business, so give them a little bit of credit and trust their ability to discern the diehards from the blowhards.
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