I recently talked with a restaurant owner at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last month. He shared his story of his frustration with Yelp, stating that he wasn't quite sure how to overcome negative posts. I asked him more about the story to get a better understanding of what was happening, and in it was a good lesson and example of how to make the most out of online reviews.

He said that he started seeing negative reviews come up on some of his locations; some of them were true issues that he was able to resolve, and some were less pertinent complaints, with some comments seemingly from people who are generally unhappy and tend to complain about everything.

Concerned that negative reviews would overshadow positive ones, he started a campaign in his restaurants to encourage people to leave positive reviews on Yelp after their dining experience. He received a good response in general, though when he reviewed his Yelp pages, he noticed that the reviews were skewed as far as which were being posted. After some digging, he found that all of the reviews written were published; however, some (notably many of the positive ones) were more or less buried.

Frustrated, he contacted Yelp for assistance, and learned that he could get help with this, for a price. As budget constraints didn't allow for this, he took matters into his own hands. He was sure to continue to encourage customers to leave positive reviews when they were pleased with their experience, but he also made a personal connection with those that left negative reviews.

In addition to publicly addressing concerns and making them right, whether that be to offer a discount on a future visit, apologize in a sincere manner, or whatever would make the situation better, he and his managers were notified whenever a customer redeemed these "negative situation coupons."

By taking this extra step and making the personal connection, he reported that many customers not only gave the restaurant a second chance, but they became regular customers, who, interestingly enough, started leaving positive reviews on Yelp and other similar sites.

Negative reviews can be daunting and worrisome, especially to smaller to mid-size companies, but, as you can see, handled the right way, these reviews can really turn things around and save dissatisfied customers.

I enjoyed hearing this story and seeing how his efforts really paid off. What has worked for you?

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