Embracing Yelp Business Reviews (Really)

September 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Last week, we published a quick guide to setting up a Yelp page—and why it’s important for most business owners to do it. The next step is how to make the most of your Yelp business reviews with as little drama as possible.


Yelp. Just reading the word evokes a range of visceral emotions in business owners. Should you ignore it? Should you embrace it? Should you advertise? Should you stick-it-to-the-man by rallying customers for hilarious 1-star reviews? (Definitely not!) Yelp is so polarizing and so pervasive, that even “South Park” recently aired an episode, “You’re not Yelping,” in which reviewers refer to themselves as important “food critics” and hold restaurant owners hostage with threats of 1-star Yelp business reviews.

As a marketing and design agency that provides Review Management services, and as restaurant owners, our team has read and responded to thousands of Yelp business reviews. While reading and replying to online reviews can be extremely frustrating for business owners, our philosophy is to embrace feedback and to use it as a positive opportunity to connect with your customers in an authentic way. Believe it or not, sometimes even the angriest reviewers will be in awe when someone actually responds, and will often feel compelled to respond in a positive way in return.

The truth is that, whether you like Yelp or not, your customers (and oftentimes you!) are using it as a tool to find businesses. For many of our clients, Yelp is the number one social referrer to their website. Michael Luca, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, actually found that within the Seattle area, a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.

Without further ado, then, here are a few helpful tips and tricks we use when Yelping.

Connect with your customers

Reply to your reviews—all of them. Oftentimes, negative Yelp reviews are the only ones to garner a response from business owners. However, if there’s ever an opportunity to have a positive Yelp moment, it’s when you reach out to someone who gave you a glowing review to thank him or her. Replies to negative reviews should be authentic, open-minded, humble, and brief. Most importantly, responses should be unemotional. Let the customer know that you appreciate their feedback and give them specific information about how you plan to solve their issue.

Let people know you’re there

As a business owner, it’s important to let reviewers know that they are not anonymous. It’s easy for reviewers to feel angry when they’re at their computers, and sometimes customers might type out a message that they would never say directly to a business owner. Replying gently reminds customers that there is a regular person with emotions behind the business who works hard every day to provide a service and to keep their business open.

Look for trends

Online reviews may help uncover operational issues that you can change and improve. Take notice if multiple Yelp reviews mention that your host is rude or that their salad didn’t have enough greens. If you need more information, you can ask the reviewer to email you with the date and time they visited your business to see if the issues are global or if there is a particular day of the week when the staff need support. You can use the feedback as an opportunity to check in with your team, refresh your training program, or double check that recipes and portions are being followed.


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