August 3, 2015

In my last article, I covered some of the basics about Yelp. In this one I am going to go into a bit more detail regarding what to do about problematic negative posts.

Remember, occasional negative posts are not something to drive yourself crazy over. Unless the post points to something truly egregious, it is generally best to write a simple response on Yelp in which you apologize to the customer, invite them back to your business and encourage them to speak with you personally so that you can help them have a better experience. Also, remind them (and everyone else reading) that negative experiences like the one this customer had are not the norm and move on.

Wait it Out

Oftentimes if you patiently listen, don’t get defensive and offer an apology, people will take down their negative posts. Of course this doesn’t always work and not everyone will respond to you when you reach out to them. If this occurs look carefully at the posters profile. Have they written multiple posts or is yours the only one? Do they have friends on Yelp? The friends option allows people posting and using Yelp to connect with other users. They can share experiences and create more of a social media community, which is something Yelp approves of. Is their profile completely filled out? If the answers to most of these questions are no, consider waiting a week to see if Yelp hides the post.

Yelp uses sophisticated algorithms that enable it to identify the most-authentic posts. Although Yelp doesn’t make this public, the general belief is that posters with complete profiles, pictures, friends and multiple posts showing clarity and balance are more likely to be real than those with profiles that are incomplete, only have one post, no friends, etc. If your negative poster falls into the latter category, Yelp might elect to hide the post. This happens often although it is not consistent. It’s worth it to wait a week or two to see if you get lucky and the offending post is hidden.

Hidden posts are not used when Yelp rates your business. Only viewable posts are utilized for that. For example, let’s assume that you have 10 reviews on Yelp. Eight of them are five-star reviews and two of them are three-star reviews. The eight five-star reviews get hidden by Yelp and the three-star reviews are left visible. In this rather unattractive example, the business would be rated by the three-star reviews and the five-star reviews would not count toward rating at all. People can see all hidden reviews when they get to the bottom of the page and click on the “Other reviews that are not currently recommended” link.

Removing Posts

What if you can’t wait? Some posts are damaging enough that you will want to take some effort to try to get them removed.

Does the post violate Yelps content guidelines? Yelp has specific prerequisites when it comes to consumers posting about businesses. Reviews cannot contain hate speech, ethnic slurs or threatening language. Reviews must be written by the person who actually bought the product or used the service. Someone writing secondhand commentary is simply spreading rumor.

Reviews cannot mention a person by name or show photographs of other customers taken without their permission. Reviews may not copy content from other sites or users. Reviews must be relevant. This is somewhat subjective but Yelp specifically notes that consumer posts “aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.” This is an important one as some posters stray off topic and rant.  Finally, a review cannot promote competitors’ business information. If you believe a review violates Yelp’s guidelines, contact Yelp and flag the review as violating their Terms of Content. Be careful with your protest as Yelp only allows for you to flag a review once for content violation.

Extend the Olive Branch

Assuming that Yelp won’t hide or remove the negative post, what else can you do? Contact the client and let them know that you would like the chance to speak with them. Many customers simply want the chance to be heard. If they are willing to speak with you, be prepared to listen. Also be prepared to make amends if possible. Your solution will depend on circumstances, but often if a client feels like you listened and possibly receives a discount or partial refund, they might be willing to remove negative posts. Offers should be based on your desire to help satisfy a customer. However, if a customer is satisfied, it is perfectly reasonable to ask them to please remove the offending post. A word of caution. Do not offer people anything to remove posts on Yelp. Do not offer to pay people to write positive posts. Yelp takes a very dim view of that.

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