Nowadays, sites like TripAdvisor, OpenTable and Yelp are the modern form of word of mouth. How often do you go online to check ratings and reviews prior to visiting a restaurant? Yelp’s algorithm may not be the best for business owners, but it gives customers what they want. They’re likely to listen to online reviews as much as personal recommendations. You can’t control what customers say on Yelp, but you can control the level of service they receive at your business and how you respond to posts. Here 5 tips on how top restaurants handle negative Yelp reviews:


Early Diagnosis

It’s probably a given, but the best way to deal with negative Yelp reviews, is not to have them. Train your staff on how to identify and handle negative experiences when they occur. Early diagnosis is key; the best way to ensure that a customer will refrain from writing a poor review, is to catch them before they leave. There will be situations that are out of your control, but it is your responsibility to recognize when customers are left underwhelmed. Offer to compensate them for their experience – it may not make up for their experience, but it lets them know that they’ve been heard.


Trends

Look for trends on your reviews. Use reviews as a basis of finding consistent feedback, rather than focusing on rare anomalies. No one likes to read negative comments, but if there is a common occurrence, say on the music selection, maybe it would be a good idea to change it up. Identifying common trends in your reviews allows you and your staff to be actionable, and focus on the aspects that you can change.


Engagement

Engage with your online reviewers. Actively reading and responding to reviews show that you are engaged, and you care! Positive reviews will be met with appreciation. They have the potential to foster a genuine sense of connection between your customer and establishment. Who knows, your restaurant could be a site of significance for some!

With negative reviews, timeliness is an important factor. By promptly addressing a negative review, you’re given the opportunity to humanize the online relationship between you and your reviewer. Keep your response short and sweet; sincerely apologize, address their experience, let them know that you understand, and provide them with an opportunity to contact you personally.

Here’s a great example from Seer Interactive:Good Response - Negative Yelp Review
The response is apologetic, timely, and tailored to the situation whilst instilling the integrity of the business. What you don’t want to do, is insult the customer and aggressively defend your business like so:
Bad Response to Negative Yelp ReviewThe response, or rant rather, has no intent of apologizing and is borderline offensive. Not only does the owner belittle the customer, he also viciously defends his business. What he should’ve done, was apologize, or offer a means of making up for the incident. Apologizing doesn’t always lead to compensation, but it lets the guest know that they’ve been heard.


Encourage Regular Customers to Yelp

Take advantage of your regular customers. Regular customers often become family in the restaurant industry, and they’ll promote you the best! Encourage them to help grow your business with their own Yelp reviews. These customers are your best advocates, and will often be more than happy to give their feedback online.


Pictures Say a Thousand Words

People eat with their eyes, allow your customers to have a taste of what your restaurant is all about with high quality photos. Be proactive in posting and uploading photos of what your restaurant offers. It will encourage your visitors to upload their own. After all, in this day and age, the camera eats first!