Yelp is a powerful tool for a well managed small business because customers trust their peers’ reviews. However, few dentists take advantage of Yelp – some because they don’t know how to set up a free business account and others because they fear negative reviews.

People prefer to share good news, so most of your reviews will be positive regardless of your people skills. There is also nothing stopping a disgruntled patient from creating a listing for your business and posting a negative review. On yelp, creating a listing is different than owning (or claiming) a business page. Only the business owner can claim, build, and edit the page, but anyone can create a listing and write a review about a business’s practices.

Kitchen Nightmares is a TV show that visits failing businesses in the food industry and one episode created a social medial firestorm. Needless to say, here’s a perfect example of how to not handle negative feedback: http://mashable.com/2013/05/14/restaurants-epic-facebook-meltdown/

The show created so much buzz online that Kitchen Nightmares went back to film a second episode. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for the owners of this establishment: http://www.eater.com/2014/4/12/6242471/kitchen-nightmares-return-to-amys-baking-company

The point is that a negative review on Yelp is not going to ruin your business unless you fan the flames. A simple apology will usually end the dispute and the negative review will be removed. If the reviewer does not remove his or her negative comments, leave it alone and encourage some happy consumers to post positive reviews to dilute the sting of the one disgruntled patient.

As an aside, a downside to creating a free Yelp account is that Yelp’s sales team will call you (rather consistently) trying to sell their premium service (which costs a few hundred dollars a month).