03.03.20165 min read

3 Step Triage Plan to Fix Negative Reviews Online

I recently attended a forum at SXSW on Yelp reviews. Someone from the back said he didn’t think a couple of negative reviews would do much harm; this individual clearly operates outside of the small business space. For a small business, poor Yelp reviews can be a deal breaker. I can remember the sick feeling in my stomach the first time I saw a negative review on Yelp for a small businesses I did the marketing for. I felt the sting of a dissatisfied customer and watched the traffic from Yelp drop significantly over the next 2 weeks. Tell me that Yelp reviews don’t really impact small businesses. False. If you’ve received a negative review on Yelp and it’s hurting your business, you need to take action. Here’s how I was able to deliver customer delight to an upset reviewer on Yelp. Although the review was deleted, I did copy it before it was removed.

The show was definitely entertaining; however, buyers BEWARE.  I reserved 4 tickets for the Thanksgiving 2011 show and called in advance to cancel 1 ticket.  JesterZ explained to me AFTER I was charged for 4 tickets that "after tickets have been purchased, there is no refund".  So basically JesterZ benefited financially from my cancellation.  My party consisted of 3 people in attendance and JesterZ charged me for 4 people.  SCAMMERS!  The theater was NOT full, so therefore my cancellation did not take any viable revenue away from JesterZ.

Assessing the Review

When you receive a bad review – especially if it’s your first – the kneejerk reaction will usually be to get defensive, profusely apologize or spit in the face of criticism. But it’s important that you take a moment to assess the review before taking action. Here are a couple of things to consider about this review:

  • Product or Service vs. Experience This negative review was based on the experience, not the product or service. The majority of negative reviews are based on the customer’s experience.
  • We can solve this. If someone gives a bad review that and you have an active solution for resolving the customer’s issue, it is much easier to deal with the review in a positive way. When someone gives you a review that is opinion based, it can be hard to know how to make amends. More often than not a simple email reaching out to the person and thanking them for their constructive feedback will go a long way. In other circumstances, it may take more than that, but the trick is identifying what options you have for solving this issue.
  • This is great feedback. While a negative review is always a tough blow, this one gave us an opportunity to improve our process. Without this review, we may have never known that our return policy was misplaced and poorly received.

Dealing with the Review

Reach out to your detractor in a very authentic way - the last thing you need is to accuse someone of lying or be rude to them. There are dozens of examples of why that is a bad idea. Och! Today's Hard Lesson on Yelp Amy's Baking Company - A History of Kitchen Nightmares How NOT To Respond TO Negative Reviews Online  


Reassure your upset customer that you will be fixing the problem. Be as specific as possible. You want to make sure that you set up their expectation in a way that you can deliver on and over deliver in some cases. In this case, I send a couple of free tickets with the refund check as a WOW factor to the experience.



Deliver the results in a timely manner. You aren’t done with this process until you deliver on what you promised. Make sure your follow through is timely enough that they can still remember the initial interaction. And with any luck, share the improved experience.


I’m not going to tell you that taking Yelp reviews persona is wrong. If you are a small business owner a negative review can have a significant impact on your business and livelihood. There is nothing more personal than that. But try to deal with the review in an  open-minded way. Take the review as feedback that you can incorporate into your processes to improve your business. And use the bad situation to demonstrate your dedication to making the customer happy. Maybe the SXSW attendee had a big enough business that a couple of bad reviews wouldn’t do him any harm. Perhaps, he simply wasn’t viewing the review site as an integral part of his brand. Whichever it is, neither of those positions are one a small business can afford to take. If you’ve been ignoring the troubles on Yelp (or are blissfully unaware), take the time to review your presence on the site and come up with an action plan for bad reviews. Have you had to fix negative reviews? What was your approach? Please comment below.


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