Publish Date:
November 16, 2023

How to Respond to a Bad Yelp Review: 7 Best Practices

This guide will teach you how to respond to a bad Yelp review by showing you 7 examples of real business owners’ responses to negative comments and ratings.

It's an experience no business owner looks forward to: finding a negative review from an unhappy customer on your Yelp page. 

But while negative reviews can sting, responding to them is critical. After all, research shows that more than a third of consumers are “highly likely” to use businesses that reply to all reviews. When businesses only respond to positive reviews, that number drops to 15%. 

While the benefits of responding are clear, knowing how to respond isn't always so straightforward. That's why we created this step by step guide to dealing with negative reviews on Yelp

We'll teach you how to respond to negative reviews and ratings, answer some of your most frequently asked questions, and show you seven great examples of real review responses from local businesses like yours.

We'll also explain how to create a strategy for replying to customer complaints, empowering your business to approach every bad review with confidence and professionalism.

responding to negative yelp reviews

7 ways to respond to bad Yelp reviews (with examples)

Whenever you respond to a negative rating or review, you should empathize with the customer’s experience and offer an apology. 

Apologizing shows the original reviewer and other customers that your business cares about providing great customer service and not just getting more positive reviews.

Depending on the situation, you can offer the customer some type of compensation as well.

If so, you should briefly explain the compensation in your response. For example, you can mention that you’ve applied a credit to their account.

Below, you’ll find seven examples of real business responses to 1-star and 2-star Yelp reviews, which provides a great starting point for different ways of addressing negative feedback. 

We’ll explain why each example works and then review seven best practices for responding to poor reviews on Yelp. 

Negative review example #1

negative review example one
negative review example one response

Type of business: Home services, plumbing, heating 

Customer issues: Poor customer service, lack of professionalism 

Why this response works: 

  • Uses the customer’s name
  • Thanks the reviewer for their feedback 
  • Tells the customer how valued they are 
  • Reassures the customer that their feedback is being reviewed 
  • Invites the customer to return in the future
  • Incorporates details from the review, like the technician’s conduct 

Negative review example #2 

negative review example

Type of business: Auto dealership 

Customer issue: Slow service 

Why this response works:  

  • Uses the reviewer’s name
  • Specifically references a detail from the reviewer (“your Maverick’s tonneau cover”) 
  • Empathizes with the reviewer (“We…understand your frustration”) 
  • Emphasizes the company’s commitment to resolving the issue in the complaint and making sure the customer is satisfied 
  • Effectively moves the conversation away from Yelp  
  • Provides contact information to make contacting the business more convenient for the reviewer 

Negative review example #3 

negative review example three

Type of business: Restaurant 

Customer issue: Dissatisfaction with product quality 

Why this response works:

  • Uses the customer’s name
  • Apologizes for the customer’s experience 
  • Thanks the customer for their feedback 
  • Emphasizes the company’s mission of improving the customer experience (“will work harder to enhance our products”) 
  • Encourages the customer to return 

Negative review example #4

negative review example four

Type of business: Restaurant 

Customer issue: Dissatisfaction with product quality and pricing 

Why this response works: 

  • Apologizes to the reviewer succinctly and sincerely
  • Greets the customer by name 
  • Uses a warm, friendly tone while maintaining a professional voice 
  • Highlights the company’s commitment to providing better future experiences for the reviewer (“We’re looking forward to winning your business back”) 

Negative review example #5

negative review example five

Type of business: Fast food franchise 

Customer issue: Receiving incorrect orders when placing orders online 

Why this response works:  

  • Starts with a personalized greeting
  • Thanks apologizes for the customer’s specific issue (“...chicken soup was not in your order”) 
  • Calls out the brand’s positive attributes (“We strive to provide superior service”)
  • Invites the reviewer to contact the business for support 
  • Expresses the business’ desire to deliver a better customer experience 

Negative review example #6 

negative review example six

Type of business: Car dealership 

Customer issues: Product cost and pricing transparency, trustworthiness of the business 

Why this response works:  

  • Addresses the reviewer by name
  • Apologizes for the customer’s negative experience 
  • Expresses a desire to learn more from the customer (“and get a better understanding”) instead of becoming defensive
  • Mmoves the conversation off Yelp by encouraging the reviewer to contact the business directly
  • Povides contact information for the customer’s convenience 

Negative review example #7 

negative review example seven

Type of business: Home service, electrician, HVAC 

Customer issues: Dissatisfaction with product quality, scheduling issues, lack of clear communication

Why this response works:

  • Provides a courteous, sincere apology to the reviewer
  • References specific details from the original review
  • Shows other customers that the business places a high value on great service (“We understand the importance of prompt and timely service”) 
  • Shows that the business is actively working toward a resolution of the issue
  • Closes with a friendly, personalized invitation to continue the conversation 

7 best practices when replying to negative Yelp reviews 

Dealing with critical feedback tends to be more challenging than responding to positive reviews

Following best practices will help you deliver polished, professional-sounding responses to even the harshest negative reviews on Yelp. 

Here are seven tips to remember when you’re responding to negative Yelp reviews: 

  1. Respond to negative reviews in a timely fashion 
  2. Use the reviewer’s name when responding to negative reviews 
  3. Personalize all responses to bad reviews  
  4. Thank dissatisfied customers for their feedback 
  5. Apologize for the negative experience
  6. Emphasize your commitment to customer satisfaction 
  7. Always try to move the conversation offline 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these best review response practices. 

Reply to negative reviews in a timely manner

When it comes to responding to online reviews, time is of the essence – especially if the customer needs help or has a complaint. 

The faster you can respond to reviews on Yelp, the better. Always aim to respond in under 24 hours – ideally, within a few hours of the review first being published. 

You should reply swiftly to all customer feedback but should respond to negative reviews before positive reviews since they are typically more urgent and time-sensitive. 

Address each customer by name

Never use a generic form of address, like “Dear Customer” or “Valued Customer,” when you’re responding to an online review. 

You should always use the reviewer’s name or username unless they have chosen to remain anonymous or their username contains inappropriate language. 

Be sure to double-check your spelling or simply copy and paste the reviewer’s name. 

Personalize every review response

According to a report by Twilio, “Over half (56%) of consumers say they will

become repeat buyers after a personalized experience, a 7% increase year-over-year.” 

The same report also revealed that “69% of business leaders are increasing their

investment in personalization.” 

Embrace this trend in your review response strategy. Avoid copy-pasting the same generic reply to each comment, and instead, provide each customer with a unique response tailored to their review.

Personalizing your replies shows that a real person from your business listens to customer feedback. 

This helps inspire trust in potential customers who want to feel confident they can contact your support team if they have a problem or question.

Express gratitude in your review response  

It’s essential to thank the reviewer for their feedback – even if it isn't a positive review. 

However, since you need to thank every reviewer, there’s a risk of becoming too repetitive in your responses. 

You can avoid this hazard simply by varying the phrases you use, like “Thank you for your feedback, [Reviewer]” vs. “We appreciate your detailed review.” 

Acknowledge and apologize for the customer's experience 

Whenever your business receives a low rating or negative comment on a review site like Yelp, it’s crucial to offer a short but earnest apology to the reviewer – even if you don’t quite agree with their feedback. 

The simple act of apologizing can help defuse an emotionally charged situation, paving the way for a smoother resolution to the issue – and potentially, even retaining the customer. 

Remember to avoid repetition and vary your language in each apology, like the examples in the screenshots above. 

Emphasize your commitment to excellent customer service

While it might sound counterintuitive, you can leverage negative reviews to show potential customers what’s positive about your brand. 

Here are a few examples, which you can also see illustrated in the screenshots above: 

  • “This doesn’t reflect our high standard of customer service.” 
  • “We pride ourselves on outstanding service and are sorry that your experience fell short on this occasion.” 
  • “We strive to deliver an exceptional customer experience and deeply regret missing the mark.” 

Even if you're not responding to a positive review, you can still end your response on a positive note that encourages customer engagement.

Move the conversation off Yelp

It’s important to publicly respond to reviews – especially when they're less than–glowing because doing so shows that your brand values transparency. 

However, your company's public comments should not be too detailed or complex. For example, if you try to explain your company's policies or protocols in your response, potential customers and other Yelp users could interpret it as defensive. 

Instead of trying to resolve the conversation on Yelp, use your response to open the door to a private conversation. 

For instance, you can invite the customer to send you a direct message, email your customer support team, or call your corporate office. 

How to build a negative Yelp review response strategy

If you want to win happy customers and score positive Yelp reviews, implementing a solid review management strategy is vital.

Whether you're dealing with negative, neutral, or positive reviews, there are two basic approaches when it comes to review response management: 

  1. Manual – Manually create your own review responses using appropriate response templates, such as a response template for negative hotel reviews, a template for five star reviews, or templates for a positive Yelp review.
  1. Automated – Automate the process from start to finish by using a full-service, end-to-end solution that monitors reviews and generates responses for you –  no copying, pasting, or editing necessary. 

There are a few important steps to follow if you decide to take the manual approach: 

  1. Determine which team members are responsible for replying to reviews, including positive comments, neutral reviews, and negative feedback. You should also have a procedure in place for escalating sensitive reviews and ensure your team has proper training for dealing with escalated responses.
  1. Monitor and read online reviews on Yelp and all other relevant platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Trustpilot, Tripadvisor, Angi, Apartments.com, and the Better Business Bureau.  
  1. Create an internal style guide to help your team members reply to customers using a consistent, brand-aligned, professional voice. 
  1. Use review response templates to accelerate the response writing process. Templates provide the outline of a response, which you can then personalize to each reviewer by inserting key details. 

Following these steps makes it faster and easier to manage your reviews manually, if that’s the approach you decide to take. 

However, to optimize your speed and cost-efficiency, you should consider an end-to-end solution that automates every task for you. 

A review response service, like ResponseScribe, eliminates wasting time scouring review sites, keeping your business page updated, or struggling with writer’s block. 

sign up for responsescribe

We monitor Yelp and over 50 other review sites for positive and negative reviews of your business, eliminating the need for you to track dozens of platforms manually.

Whenever you receive a rating or comment, our team engages your reviewers with professional, on-brand replies. You’ll never have to write a sentence, and you’ll always maintain full control over approvals and revisions. 

ResponseScribe provides a personalized response to every Yelp review in under 24 hours by leveraging cutting-edge AI, our expert team of trained writers, or a combination of both approaches. With our flexible pricing, the choice is up to you.

Need to scale up as your business grows? Change your plan any time for total freedom, headache-free. 

responsescribe pricing

A faster, simpler way to respond to negative Yelp reviews 

Responding to reviews on Yelp requires time and effort – but not when you use ResponseScribe to effortlessly generate customized, on-brand responses to your customers. 

Control damage from one star reviews, drive brand loyalty and visibility, boost SEO and turn unhappy customers into vocal fans through a personalized review response campaign. 

Start your free trial of ResponseScribe and start leveling up your local business today.

FAQs

How do you apologize on a Yelp review?

Your apologies don’t need to be long or complex, but they do need to be courteous and professional. It’s also important to use different wording in each apology, which helps make every response unique. This can be as simple as saying “we’re sorry” in some responses while saying “we apologize” in others – for example, “We’re deeply sorry to hear about the poor customer service you received.”

Why should you respond to negative Yelp reviews?

Responding to negative Yelp reviews shows future customers that your business listens to and cares about customer feedback. It also shows that your customer service team is helpful and accessible, encouraging new customers to trust your business. Finally, responding can help you retain more customers by starting conversations that lead to complaints getting resolved.

How do you respond to a bad review on Yelp?

Apologize sincerely but briefly when replying to a negative Yelp review. Avoid becoming defensive or trying to explain your side of the story in your response. Instead, encourage the reviewer to contact you directly. It’s also crucial to personalize each reply and respond to negative feedback quickly – ideally, within hours (or minutes).

Can I remove a negative Yelp review?

Yelp will not remove a review simply because it is negative. Yelp will only remove reviews that violate the platform’s Content Guidelines. According to Yelp Support, “After a review has been investigated by our moderators, Yelp sends an email notification to the business owner…who reported the content, notifying them of the results, which may take several days.” 

Let's start responding

Give it a try for free and see how you like the quality of our responses.