Responding publicly is only recommended for situations where there is no way to salvage the relationship privately first.
Here’s Yelp’s official take on it:
... we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.Responding publicly to negative Yelp reviews is particularly tricky for anyone who needs to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which provides federal protections for personal health information. There is nothing in Yelp’s guidelines which prevents patients from revealing their own personal health information. However, in order to comply with HIPAA and maintain privacy, it’s best to respond in generalities rather than talk about a patient’s specific visit.
Stating your policies is generally a safe tactic. For example, if someone is complaining the final bill from their insurance more than they expected, or their insurance didn’t cover what they thought it would, you could respond with something like the following:
We’re sorry you ended up paying more out of pocket. We check the insurance policy of each patient when we estimate the bill. However, we can’t guarantee the insurance company will pay what they state on their website. We also can’t guarantee the information they provided us is up-to-date. This is why the total bill sometimes differs from the original estimate. You can learn more about our insurance policies on our website: [link to Insurance Information on your website].One of the most common types of reviews we see are complaints from deal seekers who purchased a Groupon or LivingSocial deal, and then expected the business owner to honor it after it expired. Some businesses still accept expired deals, and some don’t, but if someone is complaining about it on your Yelp page, future discount shoppers are going to see it. Therefore, it’s a good idea to respond with your official policy, which may sound like this:
We're sorry you were dissatisfied with your booking. Our deal ran for six months. The promotional value is valid for services rendered on or before the expiration date. Deal site vouchers to be redeemed after the expiration date and without prior exception granted by the company will be for the amount the customer paid; the balance of the payment for the service performed is due at the time of service.Responding with facts and policies should help anyone reading the review in the future figure out the truth for themselves. The worst that can happen is another one star review from the same angry patient, which doesn’t count as an additional review in your rating.
In conclusion, when replying publicly on Yelp, it’s best to be completely factual and general in your reply. This ensures you comply with HIPAA and protect yourself from lawsuits.
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