It’s an unwelcome surprise for any entrepreneur — the business you’ve built from the ground up and work tirelessly to improve suddenly gets a bad Google review. All because one grumpy customer decided to take out their frustrations on your company in an online and public place. This can be disheartening for a business owner.
But it's not the worst thing ever. So relax. Don’t freak out. Understand that negative reviews are part and parcel of running a growing business. In fact, if handled tactfully, negative Google reviews provide an opportunity to showcase just how reliable and professional your company is. Research suggests that in some instances, it can even boost sales.
That said, Google’s search algorithm favours positive reviews, so several negative reviews can affect your rankings and damage your company’s hard-earned reputation. It’s definitely not the kind of thing you want to leave unchecked or ignored.
So, what to do? Here's 5 simple steps to mitigate the situation.
How to Respond to Negative Google Reviews
1. Take a deep breath
Though it can be tempting to give an ungrateful critic a piece of your mind, never, EVER lash out when responding to a negative review. There are countless examples of poorly-handled responses to bad reviews, which inevitably makes things a thousand times worse.
Take a deep breath after reading the review, stay calm and refrain from impulsively responding. Even if the review is unreasonable, unfounded or even fake, the last thing you want to do is vent your frustrations for everyone to see.
2. Assess the situation
You’ll want to find out if the review is legitimate (i.e., from an actual customer). Start digging for as much background information as you can — check your records, your recent transactions, your inbox, and check in with your team. The more context you have about the situation, the better equipped you’ll be to handle it.
Sometimes poor reviews — or worse, 1-star reviews with no comments — can be left by bots, random people or even competitors with an axe to grind. If you have no history of ever doing business with the reviewer, make that clear in a polite and professional manner.
3. Craft your response
If the review is from a former customer, you’ll want to tactfully answer with these points in mind:
• Keep your response brief and to the point.
• Demonstrate empathy and don’t make any excuses.
• Apologize. Even if it wasn’t your fault, offer a sincere apology.
• Commit to finding a solution and to ensuring the problem isn’t repeated.
• Mention you’ll be following up privately to make things right (and do follow up).
Remember: your response will be public and will be seen by future prospects assessing whether or not they want to do business with you. How you respond is critical. We recommend getting a second set of eyes to review your response before moving ahead to step #4.
Here’s an example of how NOT to respond (by starting an argument):
4. Post your response (promptly)
Time is of the essence when dealing with unhappy customers. You don’t want to let negative feelings about your business fester, and you certainly don’t want to give the impression that you’re not paying attention or that you don’t care. Ideally, you should respond within 24 hours of the review being posted (useful tip: to receive notifications whenever a new customer review is posted, you can easily set up Google My Business notifications).
Once you’re satisfied with your response, follow these steps to post it publicly:
Sign in to your Google My Business account.
Click on the three horizontal bars in the top left-hand corner and click “All Locations.” If you have multiple locations, click on the one you’d like to manage, then click “Manage reviews.”
Click on “View and reply” when you find a review to which you want to respond.
Once you click on “View and reply,” a pop-up box will open for you to write your response.
If you are able to resolve the issue for your customer, it is not unreasonable to ask them if they’d consider modifying or updating their review to reflect their new level of satisfaction. In fact, we’ve seen instances in which customers were so satisfied with how their concerns were addressed that they deleted their review entirely, posted a glowing one instead, and became repeat clients!
5. Regard negative feedback as valuable
Handling negative feedback can be challenging. No one likes being told their business is not performing to an acceptable level. It’s much easier to discount negative feedback; to write it off as inconsequential, meaningless, or as coming from a disgruntled person. It’s much harder (but incredibly more powerful) to take in the criticism, accept that there may be areas in your business that need improvement, and look for solutions to the underlying cause of the problem.
If you’ve heard more than once about a particular issue — that one of your employees isn’t punctual, that the level of service is disappointing or that customers are feeling ripped off — it may be time to consider a change in your processes, training, transparency, or customer service.
Ultimately, negative Google reviews present an opportunity for your business to become even better than it is. Adopt a growth mindset and you’ll no longer dread and loathe feedback, but accept it for what it is: tiny adjustments in righting the course of your ship.