If you’re like most small business owners, your business isn’t just how you make a living. It’s a passion and it probably feels like a part of you. Given this, it can be hard not to take negative reviews personally, which leads a lot of business owners to respond inappropriately. Don’t get mad, don’t be sad, and whatever you do, don’t ignore them!
Here are three steps for how to respond to negative reviews on Google.
Why People Leave Bad Reviews
Okay, this may seem obvious—people leave negative reviews because they’re unhappy with your business, right? But let’s take a step back and talk about this a little bit more because by understanding why people leave bad reviews, you can also understand how to prevent them.
Most people want small businesses in their community to thrive; they don’t want to leave negative reviews! Sure, there are always those outliers who like to complain about seemingly everything (and you’ve undoubtedly dealt with many of those people as a business owner!), but generally speaking, people leave bad reviews on Google because they feel it’s their only recourse.
You can avoid negative reviews by:
- Being responsive. A large portion of negative reviews on Google Business Profiles have to do with communication (or, rather, a lack thereof). Get back to your clients and prospective customers quickly, especially when they seem unhappy or have a pressing question or concern. When you’re not able to respond in a timely manner because you’re away from the office, be sure to set up an autoresponder on your email, record a voicemail message that lets people know when to expect a response or have someone else handle communications for you.
- Give customers the opportunity to resolve any issues immediately after their service or purchase. You should make it a habit to send a follow-up email asking your customers or clients to relay their concerns to you ASAP so you can make things right. If you’re able to take care of disappointed customers immediately, they won’t feel as compelled to leave a negative review.
- Be courteous. It’s simple psychology—if someone is nice to us, it’s a lot harder to write a blistering review on their Google Business Profile. Be courteous and kind, even when you’re not feeling the same love from your customer. It works wonders for your online reputation in the long run.
How to Respond to a Negative Google Review
Even if you’re doing your best to go above and beyond, it’s inevitable that you’ll get a negative review at some point. It’s the price of doing business—in fact, when researching businesses, people are often skeptical of those with only glowing online reviews. (Hey, maybe that bad review isn’t such a bad thing after all?)
You may want to bury your head in the proverbial sand and avoid dealing with your negative review, but this is the worst thing you can do—well, second only to responding in a blind rage. You can swoop in and redeem yourself in the eyes of potential customers by offering a professional response.
Here’s how you do it:
- Make sure you are registered with Google as a business owner. If you haven’t claimed your Google Business Profile, you’ll need to do that.
- Log in. Log into your Google Business Profile account.
- Select Respond and Review. It’s as easy as that!
What to Say When Responding to Negative Google Reviews
So how do you respond when someone has less-than-glowing things to say about your business? Here’s the strategy we tell our clients to use:
…but not immediately. You want to take a deep breath first and process what the review says and carefully consider your response.
Reading that bad review for the first time will give you an adrenaline rush, and you want to wait until your heart isn’t racing and your blood pressure drops a bit before you hit Respond. What’s more, every negative review you respond to thoughtfully will teach you more about your business than hundreds of positive reviews.
Acknowledge the Complaint
If you’ve read some parenting books over the years, you’re probably familiar with the advice to acknowledge what someone is saying, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. Do the same in your response to negative reviews. For example: “I understand you felt our crew was unprofessional,” “Thank you for your feedback about our scheduling process,” “I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge your concerns about how our restaurant is handling COVID-19 protocols.”
Being the bigger person isn’t always easy, and it especially doesn’t feel good if you feel like you were in the right. But you should always apologize. It might kill your soul a little bit to apologize to that difficult client who changed his mind about what he wanted and blamed you for it or who was rude to your staff, but think of it in terms of optics—it makes you look gracious to future clients if you can offer a sincere (or sincere-sounding) apology.
Suggest Taking the Discussion Offline
Do what you can to get any back-and-forth off of your Google Business Profile and into an email or phone call. Most of the time, an acknowledgment and apology are enough to diffuse a situation, but some people really want to make sure they win an argument, and they never hesitate to beat a dead horse until it’s even deader. (What a terrible analogy, right?)
In addition, when you take the discussion offline, your unhappy customer is now dealing with you directly, not just venting their complaint into the internet ether; they’re more likely to take a reasoned approach when speaking one-on-one with another human being. Your online reputation is at stake and it’s extremely difficult–often impossible–to remove anything you regret saying from the internet.
Take Action to Resolve the Issue
Don’t ask the customer what you can do to make things right, because they may have something in mind that’s not feasible or fair, like a full refund, free products or services, etc. Instead, offer a potential resolution that you’re prepared to give, like a partial refund or redoing work that the client was unhappy with. If you leave it up to your customer to come up with a resolution and their ideal resolution is not one you can fulfill, it may escalate the situation further.
How to Remove Bad Google Reviews
The only bad reviews you should worry about getting rid of are reviews that aren’t from actual customers. If you believe a series of bad online reviews are part of a negative SEO campaign, if a review was mistakenly left on your Google Business Profile (perhaps for a business with a similar name), or if the review isn’t relevant to your goods or services, you can take steps to have it removed.
- Flag it. The first step to getting rid of a bad review is to flag it for Google to review.
- Contact Google support. If Google doesn’t take action after you flag the review you want to have removed, contact support. Make sure you have a valid reason for asking the review to be removed; simply disagreeing with negative customer feedback about your business isn’t sufficient reason for a review to be reviewed. The review should be irrelevant or invalid, not simply unfavorable.
- Drown it in good reviews. And no, this doesn’t mean hiring a company to leave fake reviews for you. (These are always totally obvious and never worth the investment—they only make you look bad.) It also doesn’t mean having every friend and family member you know with a Google account leave positive reviews within a time span of a few days. Instead, send emails to previous (happy) customers asking them for reviews, and start making it a habit to ask for reviews whenever you do business with someone.
Assess What You Can Learn from Negative Feedback
When you face adversity in life, it’s important to reframe. This is also true of bad Google reviews! Instead of viewing these reviews as negative, view them as important customer feedback to help you improve your business.
While a single customer’s experience may be just that—an aberration in an otherwise stellar track record of superior customer service—if you see patterns in customer mentions and negative reviews, it’s time to pay attention to what your customers are telling you and make improvements. Are you always late for appointments? Does your crew leave messes behind in clients’ homes? Is your receptionist rude to customers? It can be humbling to hear negative feedback, but the best business owners use these reviews as a tool and make sure future customers won’t have the same complaints.
Taking action based on bad reviews on your Google Business Profile gives you something else to share in your responses, too. One of the best responses you can leave when learning how to respond to negative Google reviews is, “Based on your feedback, we’ve made the following changes to how we do business.”
This alerts the unhappy customer to the fact that you’ve taken their complaint seriously, and it also shows potential customers that they don’t have to worry about having the same issue when using your business. You’ll be collecting positive reviews sooner than you think!
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