A few weeks ago, one of our DC area clients received an extremely negative, 1-star review on Yelp.  This was worrisome because the company only has a few other reviews showing on its Yelp page — 2 of which are negative — and because its Yelp page ranks well on Google brand searches and gets a lot of traffic.

Within a couple weeks the customer of the 1-star review had removed it, and how this happened is a good case study in responding to negative reviews.  Here’s what we did:

1. Within a few hours we worked with the client company to craft and send a private response via Yelp.  The reviewer had gripes about the company’s lack of responsiveness to his inquiries.  The response, which came from a senior manager at the company, apologized authentically to the reviewer and thanked him for his feedback; this was in fact valuable feedback and we appreciated it.  The response then provided a number to call and requested that he respond with his number.

2. He responded within a day with his number.  The senior manager at the company called him a couple times and eventually connected, apologizing again and doing anything possible to help.  It turned out the reviewer didn’t need the company’s services, but he left the call with a much better impression.  The company did not ask the reviewer to change or remove the review.

3. We waited.

4. Within a day of the phone call, the reviewer removed the review and emailed the company via Yelp to say why he’d done so.

Notice that 1) in our initial contact, we did not respond publicly to the reviewer (as tempting as it was to do so), and 2) we did not push him to remove the review at any point in the process.  We first gave him a chance to decide to remove it himself.  What if he hadn’t removed it?  We might have reached out to him again via Yelp email after a week or two.  Or we might have replied publicly.  Or we might have done both.

For more on how to deal with negative Yelp reviews, see this blog post in the New York Times and this blog post on Yelp.