How to Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews (Without Being a Jerk)

According to Moz, 67 percent of consumers are influenced by online reviews. Another study from Dimensional Research claims that 86 percent of consumers base their decision NOT to buy as a result of bad reviews. And there’s a lot more research out there. The point being, there’s no shortage of evidence that online reviews impact buying decisions.

Yelp for business is a popular way to connect with customers and promote your business. It’s also a widely-used site for crowd-sourced reviews by consumers. Bad reviews will happen. The best possible attitude you can have regarding negative reviews is to see every one of them as an opportunity. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this:

It’s not the negative review that most people will remember, it’s your response to it.

If you’re passionate about your company, reading negative reviews can be tough. And many business owners struggle with how to respond to them. You might be tempted to write a scathing reply defending your business or your employees. And you may even want to take some jabs at the reviewer.

What’s important to remember is that MOST of the people reading your response are potential customers who may not have made up their mind about you yet.

How you respond to negative reviews says much more about your brand than one individual ever will.

We’ve compiled a list of tips on how to respond to negative reviews in a respectful way that will demonstrate your brand’s genuine interest in its customers and help you leverage Yelp for business growth.

Tips on how to respond to negative yelp reviews

  1. Read it and walk away. Take time to cool down. We’ve all said things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. Though it can be challenging NOT to take negative reviews personally, you don’t want to publish a knee-jerk response with the online community watching.
  2. Respond promptly. Timely responses demonstrate to ALL readers that the customer is your priority. Set yourself a deadline for responses. Whether it is 12, 24, or 48 hours. Have a system in place and be consistent.
  3. Review the comments again and do your research. There are two sides to every story and you’ll need to find out as best you can what happened so you can provide a thoughtful reply. Try to look at every review as consumer research. Companies pay good money for secret shoppers, surveys, focus groups, etc. In some cases, you may feel the review is unfair or inaccurate. If possible, have a go-to neutral team member or colleague to kick these things around with. If there is a legitimate issue on your end, address it. It’s always a plus when your reply can include an honest appreciation for bringing attention to an issue and assurance to readers that you are actively working to correct it.
  4. Prepare a reply to the Yelp review. Respond to the good and the bad and try to keep it brief. Here’s an easy-to-follow checklist for what to include in your response, along with some examples.

What to include in your response to a negative yelp review

  • A genuine thank you. If it’s not possible to thank them for their comments, then at least thank them for the time they took to provide feedback. Here’s a sample of a simple but authentic response to a negative restaurant review.


  • Accept responsibility. If you made a mistake, own it and explain what you are doing to correct it.
  • A sincere apology. Once you understand what happened, the approach you take may be some variation of “wow, we really messed up,” “I sincerely apologize that you had an unpleasant experience with us,” or “I’m terribly sorry you feel that way.” Even if you believe the review is unfair, recognize the reviewer’s position and offer a thoughtful apology. Sometimes people just want to be acknowledged. Keep in mind that your reply is not simply a dialogue between you and your reviewer. Your audience is hundreds, maybe even thousands of potential customers.
  • If necessary, a correction. If there are incorrect statements in the review, politely correct them.
  • Elements of your brand. Refer to your values or your mission. Every single review (positive or negative) is a gorgeous opportunity to showcase why you do what you do and make your brand shine.
  • Reiterate the positive. If there are positive comments in the review, see this as an invitation to reinforce them and show your appreciation. In this example, though the pizza shop owner does not reply in a timely manner, he does repeat the positive comments made in the Yelp review. He also includes a reference to certain elements of the brand promise, like dough and sauce made fresh every day.



  • If applicable, offer to take it offline. If there’s a need for further clarification or personal information involved, offer to take the conversation offline, but only after you’ve thanked the reviewer and provided a public response. Otherwise, keep your reply simple and transparent. Many companies will use the “let’s take this offline” tactic immediately and research suggests that this approach makes readers feel as though companies are trying to cover up anything negative. Here’s an excellent example of an online response that covers the necessary bases, but invites the reviewer to provide more details offline, which is very appropriate.



Other Yelp review tips:

  • Sometimes reviewers are just hateful with no good reason. If necessary, report them. All review sites have guidelines for reviews and content. If you believe the review violates the policy, report it.
  • Ask your loyal customers to provide positive reviews. This is one of the best ways to give readers a balanced perspective.
  • Show heartfelt gratitude and enthusiasm for positive reviews.

Remember that every single review is an occasion to build relationships with your customers. Once a negative Yelp review and your response are posted, potential customers could be reading them for years to come. How you engage with your reviewers says everything about who you are as a business.

If you’re struggling to keep a response positive, step back, take a breather, review our checklist on how to respond to negative reviews and remember the wise words of Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, “People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.”

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