How Should Business Owners Respond To A Negative Online Review?

We know that the proper response of a business to a bad online review shouldn’t be to post their own fake positive ones, or to fine wedding hosts for the bad reviews by their invited guests. Yet what should the proper response be when someone expresses dissatisfaction with your business…or when you take over a business with a history of bad reviews?

Reader Mark gave a local tavern a bad review on Yelp a few years ago. A few weeks ago, he received this message in his Yelp mailbox:


Hey Mark my name is Joe I own [redacted] I just bought it in April 2014 trying to clean up my yelp any chance you could take your post down
Thank You joe

Mark wasn’t impressed with this attempt. “As a business that had failed customers before, it is important that you try to make amends and not just ask people to take the reviews down,” he wrote back to Joe. “Saying something such as, ‘We have a revamped menu and service staff and I would love to offer you 20% off a meal to come down, give us another shot, and post another review’ would reap you benefits far beyond a bad review or two coming down.”

Joe offered nothing that indicated that things at the restaurant had changed, and didn’t even include punctuation in his very short message. Mark wasn’t impressed.

Here in the Consumerist Cave, this exchange raised a question: what should a business owner do when they’re not pleased with their Yelp reviews? Here are some ideas to start with.

Do be polite and take time to write a real note. Thousands of words aren’t necessary, but at least take time to punctuate. If you’re responding publicly, remember that this review will affect potential customers’ opinions of your business before they even walk in the door.

Do explain what has changed. Did you revamp the menu, fire the surly cashier, get a new chef, renovate your bathrooms, change your inventory? Say so in your private or public response!

Address their legitimate concerns. If the reviewer complains that your store aggravates their allergies and you run a candle store, well, you can’t really do anything about that. However, if you’ve fixed any problems discussed in the review, be sure to bring that up.

Don’t respond online while you’re still angry. Yeah, the human reaction is to react with anger when you or your product gets trashed in a review. This was the very first thing that the now-infamous Amy’s Baking Company received international attention for: posting a response accusing a reviewer of being a lying liar with a terrible palate. I never returned to a now-closed restaurant that I liked after the owner began berating Yelp posters in public responses to their reviews. Reacting in anger has consequences that you may not foresee.

Don’t ask people to take the review down. Encourage people to come back in and give you another try, with or without a discount, but don’t just ask people to take down reviews unless they were obviously fabricated.