You have put your heart and soul into your business, invested every dime of your life savings and although bad reviews break your heart when you see them on Yelp or Facebook there is a way to turn your heartache into a positive note. Immediately answer the post, apologize that they did not enjoy their experience. Give your name, contact email along with your direct phone number. Let the guest know that this is not the norm in your establishment and you want to rectify things with them immediately. Many times the guest will call you and you can rectify the issue with a little old fashioned listening, a heartfelt apology and a free service or meal. Often guests will remove the negative review with the new found understanding of how much you really care about them and their experience. The reality is they just want someone to listen and to care. By showing how much you truly care online to both the reviewer and the people who may read their negative review you can keep your reputation intact.
I also believe in responding to the good reviews as well! Respond immediately and thank the guest for their review and that you appreciate their patronage. Let them know of any upcoming specials and let them know the next time they are in your establishment you want to meet them personally and shake their hand. When you get a positive review, shout it to the world! Tweet it, put it on your Facebook page, share it with your employees and let them know how much you appreciate their hard work making your organization the best it can be.
In closing, Yelp, Facebook and all the other review sites have given us a whole lot more visibility in the world of marketing your organization to guests, you just have to be very aware and manage your reputation continuously. Yes, you can make Yelp and other review sites work for you!