If you run a business, you’ll know how important online reputation management is. A key part of that is knowing how to handle negative Google reviews.
Online reviews now play a major role in many consumers’ purchasing decisions. A survey by BrightLocal found that:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 90% of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
- 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important.
It’s clear from these stats that positive reviews can be hugely beneficial for your business. Unfortunately, the flipside is that negative reviews can be equally damaging.
The good news is that if you know how to handle negative Google reviews, you can limit the damage – and maybe even turn it around completely.
We helped one of our clients do just that. Read on to find out how…
Handling a bad review the right way
One of our clients received a less-than-pleasant surprise on Christmas day – a negative 1-star review on Google. We noticed this potentially damaging review the same day and leapt into action.
We advised our client to look up the customer account in question to ascertain what had happened and why the customer might have left the review.
We then advised our client to contact the customer as soon as possible, without being in any way confrontational, to talk through the issue calmly and professionally.
The client took our advice. After a series of emails and eventually a meeting, our client came to a successful resolution with their customer.
As a result, the customer removed their 1-star review and replaced it with a new 5-star review.
This was a great outcome for our client and their Google review rating. Result!
Bad reviews don’t have to be that bad
Occasionally bad reviews happen – there’s no getting around it. And when they happen, they can be painful – both financially and emotionally.
The first thing to remember is that a bad review doesn’t necessarily mean your business is bad.
A bad review might be the result of a misunderstanding, or an issue that was beyond your control – or the customer might just have been having a bad day.
The second thing to remember is that a bad review gives you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with that customer by recovering from the issue gracefully.
This is the ‘service recovery paradox’: a situation where a customer thinks more highly of a business after a problem has been corrected than they would have done if no problem had occurred.
So…how do you put it into practice? Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to handle negative Google reviews:
Respond to the review
It’s good practice to respond to online reviews, both positive and negative.
Taking the time to thank customers for positive comments and apologise for negative experiences shows that you care about your customers and are eager to provide a positive experience.
Respond to negative reviews by acknowledging the issue, apologising for it and offering to fix it or make up for it if you can.
Don’t be tempted to get defensive – or even worse, offensive. Always be friendly, self-effacing and apologetic (even if you don’t feel it).
A pleasant, thoughtful response can often considerably lessen the damning effects of a negative review.
What’s more, taking the time to reply is likely to be well worth it financially. The positive effects of a thoughtful response could potentially provide great ROI, whilst a bad review left to linger unanswered could put off new enquiries. It’s a no-brainer!
Talk to the customer
If you’re able to contact the customer, take things offline and talk to them about the review. Find out why they wrote it and what you can do to resolve the issue.
Again, it’s important to stay pleasant and apologetic throughout this interaction – especially if the customer is angry.
You might be able to make it up to them by offering a complimentary service or product, or by redoing whatever it was they had an issue with.
Sometimes, just taking the time to talk to the customer and apologise will be enough to placate them.
Ask the customer to reconsider the review
After you’ve resolved things with your customer, they may alter their review or replace it with a positive one of their own accord.
If they don’t, it may be worth asking them to. As with our client, a new, glowing review is just about the best result you can get in this situation, and a great promotional bonus.
However, tread carefully on this point. If the customer still seems dissatisfied after you’ve attempted to fix things, they may not be receptive to a request for a new review.
If you do decide to ask them, make your request as polite and friendly as possible.
Dilute negative reviews with positive ones
All businesses will encounter a few negative reviews – there’s no escaping it. But if the overwhelming majority of your reviews are positive, a few bad ones probably won’t hurt.
Having a few negative reviews is normal, and may even give your business a more believable identity.
Most of the time, other customers can tell if a reviewer is being unreasonable. If you have a sufficient number of positive reviews, it will vastly lessen the credibility of one or two negative reviews.
We saw this in action last week with a client of ours. The client in question received a 1-star review, and once again we advised them to respond to it.
In the meantime, we encouraged the client to elicit as many positive reviews as possible to push the negative review down the page and make it less visible.
As a result, the client now has six 5-star reviews and a single 1-star review – giving them an overall rating of 4.3 stars.
If the client had never received the negative review, they may not now have seven reviews and a high overall Google rating. So a bad review may not always be a bad thing!
You can encourage more positive reviews by asking happy customers to review you. If you’re unsure how to ask, check out this blog post on how to do it right.
Be proactive in eliciting reviews
There are now a number of companies out there dedicated to helping businesses get reviews from their customers.
These services can be particularly useful for businesses that usually get fewer online reviews, like lawyers and accountants.
Some of these services combine customer scheduling with requesting reviews, so that when a customer makes an appointment they’ll automatically receive a request for a review after their visit.
Sometimes they’ll even enable you to intercept negative reviews before they go public, giving you an opportunity to attempt to fix things before the review does any damage.
Get the review removed
If a reviewer has been really unfair or has violated Google’s review policies, you may be able to get the review removed.
Check out Google’s guide to flagging and fixing inappropriate reviews to find out how to do this.
How to handle negative Google reviews: a summary
As our client found out, a negative review doesn’t have to be the end of the world – in fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite.
We hope you’ve found our step-by-step guide useful. If you’d like to know more about how to handle negative Google reviews, give us a call – we’d love to chat.