One of the drawbacks of online reviews for local businesses is that despite your best efforts to provide excellent customer experiences, bad reviews can still happen. Since Yelp is one of the most popular local business directories, chances are that will be where your first bad review pops up. What makes it even worse is when Yelp chooses to allow a bad review on your listing while filtering out good ones.

Getting a bad review on Yelp is not the end of the world, however. In this post, we'll share our best tactics to dealing with a negative Yelp review.

Note: Most of these tactics can also be applied to bad reviews on any local business directory.

Take a deep breath.

No one likes anything negative being said about them or their business. It's natural to want to react immediately in a defensive manner. That's why your first step when receiving a negative Yelp review (or any negative review, for that matter) is to take a deep breath and pause. Then think through your options.

Can you get a bad Yelp review removed?

The answer? It depends. You should start by reviewing Yelp's content guidelines. Reviews that are not personal experiences, those that contain "...threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other displays of bigotry", and those that are placed by people with a conflict of interest could be eligible to be removed from your Yelp listing.

To report a review for violating Yelp's content guidelines, you will need to be logged in to a personal Yelp account. When logged in, hover over the review in question. At the bottom, you should see a flag icon appear.

You will then get the following options to choose from.

When selecting a reason to report the review, make sure that you actually have a legitimate violation to report and be prepared to cite the specific guideline that the review is violating. Simply not liking that you have a negative review is not a reason to report it.

Also, just because you report a review does not guarantee that it will get removed. It will only be removed if Yelp determines that the review is in fact in violation of their terms. But it never hurts to try, assuming that your reason is valid.

Apply your customer service skills.

If you can't get the review removed, then you only have two options: ignore it or respond. Ignoring a bad Yelp review will not make it go away. That's why you should consider responding instead.

This is where you want to apply your best customer service skills. If the customer’s complaint is valid, apologize and offer to make it right. Regardless of if they take you up on the offer, you have demonstrated exemplary customer service skills that readers of the review will see. It will show that you actually care about your customers and take efforts to handle issues when they arise. Review readers know that business are not always perfect and they love to see a business take ownership of its mistakes and make them right.

If the customer is wrong, you have to decide on a proper response. You could defend yourself and your business by pointing out how the customer was wrong in the situation. Or you could swallow it and apologize anyway.

No matter how you respond, you should think about what the reviewer will think about your response and what future potential customers will think about your response. Your response should be something that will make potential customers still want to do business with you, regardless of the review.

Also be sure to think about how you would feel if your review response went viral since it is something that will be publicly accessible. Your review could easily be published in a local newspaper or online blog (like this one), so instead of just a few people seeing it, the world could end up seeing the response.

As with anything online, if you wouldn't want it shown to the world, you shouldn't put it online. That goes for Yelp review responses too.

Encourage more reviews.

The best way to overcome a bad Yelp review is to bury it beneath lots of great reviews. If you get a bad one, and you know that it will be the exception and not the rule, then start encouraging more customers to leave you a review on Yelp. There are a few ways you can do this, including requesting a Yelp sticker for your storefront, or adding a Yelp Review Badge to your website, which is available in your Yelp for Business Owner's account.

Note that you can't directly ask for Yelp reviews and you certainly can’t incentivize your customers to leave them. Doing so violates Yelp's guidelines and could result in penalties. Ultimately, the goal is to get as many people as possible to leave you a review so that the bad one is pushed off the first page of your listing and the quantity of positive reviews vastly outweighs the negative one.

You can also encourage people to check-in at your location on their Yelp app. Obviously, this will only resonate with Yelp users and may prompt them to leave a review while they are already on the app. Many times, Yelp actually encourages its users to leave reviews for the places they have previously checked in at.

There’s no two ways about it, a negative Yelp review sucks. No matter what, one of two things will happen; it will be taken down, or it won’t. If it gets taken down because it violated one of Yelp’s policies, awesome! Regardless, your focus needs to be on your business and your customer’s satisfaction. If you stay focused on that with EVERY customer interaction, and use some of the tips above, you will have a stellar Yelp reputation in no time!