Despite your best efforts to keep clients happy, it’s inevitable that complaints will arise from time to time. When an issue gets brought to your attention in person, you’re able to work with that unhappy customer directly to address the problem. But coming to a resolution gets much trickier when the issue gets posted on your company’s Yelp page for everyone to see.

The good news is that Yelp’s platform allows business owners to interact with reviewers, and post their own responses under each review – and unlike the ClassPass Partner Dashboard, where reviews are anonymous and users aren’t notified of responses, you can have a back-and-forth with the customer.* Of course, figuring out the best approach to take when writing back to reviewers that had a less than positive experience at your fitness studio can be tough to navigate. To help with the framework, we asked Darnell Holloway, director of business outreach at Yelp to provide a few rules of thumb to follow when crafting a response. Here’s what he had to say about the most effective way to address bad feedback on your Yelp page.

Make Sure Your Response Is Timely

As far as timing goes, Holloway says the sooner you address the complaint on your Yelp page, the better it is for your business. “If you get a negative review, your best bet is to send a polite response within 24 hours,” he says.

Respond to reviews within 24 hours

Why is that? “According to Yelp’s Data Science team, Yelp users are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if you respond with a personalized message within a day,” he explains. Holloway says that being diligent about responding to reviewers has also been found to increase the number of reviews left on your Yelp page overall — which translates into more traffic for your page as well.

Keep It Short And To The Point

What should your response say? Holloway says that the best approach is to address the issue — but don’t overdo it. “If you want to win an unhappy customer back, thank them for their business and their feedback, keep it straightforward, and be sure to have your customer service policies in mind,” he says. If the review was about a problem a customer had with one of your staff members, Holloway says to make sure that you detail how you’ve addressed it. “Respond publicly if the customer has a legitimate concern about their trainer or there’s a simple misunderstanding,” Holloway says. “Use it as an opportunity to address their specific concern, explain what steps you’ve taken to correct the situation, and invite them back.”

Don’t Try To Fix It With Freebies

Offering a free class to a reviewer who didn’t have the best experience at your studio might seem like the most obvious way to make things right. But Holloway says that doing so could end up working against you. “Your best bet is to avoid doing anything that interferes with the natural flow of your reviews,” he says. Doing so can make your business seem less trustworthy to potential customers. “We recommend not offering incentives or freebies to encourage people to change or remove their reviews,” Holloway says.

Set Expectations For Your Business Offerings

One common type of negative review that fitness studio owners are faced with comes from new students who feel that they were misled on the type of workout they signed up for. In order to ensure new clients understand what your business is about, Holloway recommends making sure your Yelp business page is up to date and includes important information for potential customers to know. “A picture’s worth a thousand words, so be sure to upload high quality photos of your studio, classes, and class schedule to provide a clear visual of what your clients can expect,” he says. “You can also take full advantage of the 1,000 character limit in the ‘About This Business’ section of your page to add detailed class descriptions. These features, along with the review response tools are completely free, and available to use by claiming your business user account at or downloading the Yelp for business owners mobile app.”

Attract More Positive Reviews

In addition to responding quickly and efficiently to negative Yelp reviews, encourage the clients who love your fitness studio to share their thoughts on your Yelp page to cast it in the best light possible. Also, make sure your staff is being diligent about providing excellent customer service to your clients, since this experience is one key driver of positive reviews on Yelp. “Yelp’s Data Science team found that when Yelp users mention good customer service in a review, that review is five times as likely to be five stars versus one star,” Holloway says. “Use great customer service to generate more positive reviews for your studio.”

*Check out our article for tips on responding to ClassPass user reviews!