Yelp, ever an advocate for the consumer, is now letting businesses post responses to user comments and reviews. So, if your business receives a negative review on Yelp, you can now respond for everyone to see, and that's a good thing. With more than 5 million consumer generated reviews, chances are there are some negative ones out there that are just plain unfounded. Whether the reviewer is confusing your business with another, or someone out there is simply trying to spread negative feelings, responding to these complaints could go a long way toward making sure future customers are not deterred.
This new feature is actually more important than it sounds. Because with Yelp, even if you have never registered your business, it might have a listing. Yelp is generated by consumers, and they don't need your permission to list your business or comment on it. Below is language from Yelp's FAQ regarding the availability of business listings:
Even when a business owner has registered his or her business name as a
trademark, the law protects the right of a website like Yelp to list
the name, just as it protects the right of consumers to talk about what
they like (and don't like) about a meal they ate, a plumber that they
hired, or a car wash that they visited.
If you have not officially joined Yelp, you might want to make it a priority. Reputation management is important in the digital age, and Yelp is handing over an excellent tool just for that. Signing up for a Business Owner's Account is free.
Yelp also allows business owners to privately message reviewers, a nice way to reach out to a positive reviewer to say thanks (thereby generating even more word-of-mouth marketing) or to respond to criticism. It's possible that after some personal interatction, the individual in question removes or amends his or her comments about your business. But be careful. As Yelp notes in the FAQ page, people can be emotional and fire off an emotional review. So even when messaging privately, choose your words carefully.