Using Yelp to Your Advantage – How Being Nice Really Does Make a Difference

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 10.10.16

Working in hospitality you can experience a lot of negative Yelping.

The platform has become a place where anyone can be a critic and an expert on food, drink, and experience. Ask anyone who works in the service industry their thoughts on Yelp, and it’s usually described as a toxic environment.

Watch Real Chefs Read Bad Yelp Reviews.

This video makes light of harsh feedback. But it also shines a light on just how toxic these reviews can be.

Even though there are downsides to Yelp there’s still a way you can use it to your advantage.


The Believer, an American literary magazine started in the early 2000s by Dave Eggers, best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and writing the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, doesn’t allow writers to talk about things they don’t like.

The idea behind The Believer is to focus on the inherent good.

“Modest though the magazines are in scale and appearance, there is nonetheless something stirringly immodest – something ‘authentic and delirious,’ as e.e. cummings once wrote – about what they are trying to do, which is to organize a generational struggle against laziness and cynicism, to raise once again the banners of creative enthusiasm and intellectual engagement,” A.O. Scott wrote in a 2005 New York Times article.

Read the entire article here.

This is the heart needed behind Yelp. It needs to be a platform where users talk about what excites them, instead of nitpicking every experience.


Changing this mindset starts with you; you can’t control what others do or think, but you can control how you respond.

But, how?

Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters, a book teaching how to embrace complaints and keep customers, also wrote a blog post for Buffer App on the same topic. He came up with an acrostic called FEARS.

10-9-16-nama-yelp-blog-post-photoPhoto source:  Buffer App

Embracing this philosophy means being active on Yelp. Let’s break down Baer’s approach to social media complaints.


Complainers want a fight. Do not give it to them. Arguing with an angry person never results in them yelling “You make a very reasonable point!”

When customers get angry in person I play the “I’m with you” card. I see it from their perspective. Instead of arguing why I’m right, I decide to be their friend. It diffuses the situation.

Do this on Yelp. This is not your chance to tell your customers why they’re wrong.


Baer says customers don’t always have to be right, but they always need to be heard. Start with apologizing and then come up with a solution to fix the problem.

Don’t get into a back and forth comment battle. Only respond twice.

If they’re still angry and unwilling to accept your solution and won’t move the conversation to a private channel then you need to let it go.


Then that’s great! Some people are trying to help you out and they need to be rewarded.

This is why you should answer all complaints publicly. It looks good when a business is humble, grateful and transparent.

Remember, there’s no room for canned responses. People will see right through it and hate it. This is where you need to be authentic and engaged.

Read our blog about engaging your customers on Instagram.

LuLu Lemon and Zappos are known to have incredible customer service. Nike and Starbucks  also have service to be inspired by. Use these businesses as examples to grow yours.


Get your regulars involved by asking them to add their opinion to sites like Yelp.

Technically yelp discourages you from doing this. They say it looks fake and creates bias. But, experts disagree and say do it anyways.

Read this Forbes article about simple ways to get customer reviews. Or this Convince and Convert post.

Create a rapport with your customers. They’re the people you want talking up your business – someone that knows and loves it for exactly what it is, that has a favorite product and will come back 100 percent of the time.

If you know your customers well then just ask if they’ll take a moment to review you. They’ll more than likely be happy to help.

You can’t require a customer to post a review in exchange for a discount, but Yelp does have check in offers. People love it when they get free or discounted items – it’s an easy way to start the conversation of asking a customer to leave a review.

The facts show it’s important to engage your customer’s review. Don’t let this aspect of customer service slip through the cracks.

For more reading check out The Huffington Post’s take on engaging customer reviews.