How to Remedy Bad Yelp or Trip Advisor Reviews

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My best friend gchats me up yesterday.

“I’ve got this dentist appointment” She types.

“Eek!” I say.

She continues: “The thing is, this is the only dentist that my insurance will allow me to go to. And their reviews SUCK. I mean, they’re really really god awful. Someone on Yelp said that going to this dentist was the WORST EXPERIENCE OF THEIR LIVES. And my appointment is in 1 hour. And I’m losing my insurance in 2 weeks. WHAT SHOULD I DO???”

(Wow. I mean really? Worst experience of her entire life? Did this person leave with nothing but gums in their mouth? People are so dramatic.)

I try to calm her down. “Listen,” I said. “My dentist also has really horrifying tales on Yelp. But I went anyway, because I had personal recommendations from people I trust, and my experience was really great.  Just remember that people usually don’t go out of their way to write good reviews. If this dentist suggests something wonky, just say no.”

“Like, the way I Just Say No to Drugs?” she says.

“Yes. Like that.”

“Ok.”

Lessons learned?

1.) Your bad reviews are scaring people away. Stop pretending like they don’t exist.
2.) Your bad reviews actually give people anxiety and create mistrust and fear before they even step into your door (if they even get that far), thereby giving them more of a reason to question your services, your expertise and your integrity. That’s bad business before you’ve even done anything, and puts you at a severe disadvantage!
3.) Your bad reviews are probably not the whole story, and while you may know that, nobody else does.
4.) The Just Say No to Drugs D.A.R.E Campaign still lives on in the hearts of 90’s children. Now that’s some good branding! (Too bad the program failed.)

How to combat this insidiousness:

Address it, explain it, show the solution, offer a freebie. Easy as pie.

Example:
“This cupcake shop used to rock but now under the new ownership the treats have really lost their pizzazz. The cupcakes used to be moist, now they are dry.”

You say:
“Dear Offended Party: We’re sorry that you’ve had this experience! Now that we’re past the rough patch of switching over ownership and have gotten some new state of the art mixing equipment, we’re sure that the quality of our cupcakes is better than ever! We’re so sure of it that we’d like to offer you a free cupcake the next time you come in. Email us at info@cupcakeland.com and we’ll take it from there. Thanks!”

But what if you can’t reply because your lawyer/line of work/general state of the world says “OMG NO don’t do that you’ll get sued!”?
Easy. Place a sign or some text somewhere viewable (marketing material or in your actual physical office/store) that says “If you’re super satisfied with our service, we’d love for you to share your experience on Yelp.” This should balance it out, at the very least.
Also, never offer anything in exchange for good reviews. Make your business stellar, remind people to share their experience, and your Yelp page will get better before you know it.