Online reviews on a review site such as Google, Yelp or Facebook, allow users to share their experiences. And not just with businesses themselves, but also with potential customers. Future customers rely on these business reviews to find outstanding companies, goods, services, and brands. As a result, it is critical for businesses to understand how to respond to both positive and negative customer feedback. Specifically, how to respond to negative reviews.
Review management is critical for your business’ image and branding. According to a Bright Local survey, 91% of consumers trust positive online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The same research also revealed that most of the consumers believe that a local business should have at least 40 positive reviews before they believe its average star rating. Similarly, a negative online review influences around 94% of consumers to avoid a business.
Should companies respond to negative reviews?
The simple answer is, “Yes.” Respond to bad reviews and customer complaints before they drive away prospective customers. Doing so immediately improves consumer views, increasing the likelihood that consumers will visit your company locations.
Responding to negative customer feedback.
Recently a past client in the legal field reached out semi-panicked. They’d received an unsolicited message from a self-proclaimed reputation management firm offering their services to remove a negative review.
My client suspected the cold-calling firm had planted a fake review in an attempt to ‘hard sell’ their services. Not only was the review ‘over the top’ but the reviewer wasn’t even a past client.
I wouldn’t put planting a review past some. However, this review was 9+ months old which, in my opinion, makes it unlikely a company would have planted it and then waited a full pregnancy term to leverage it for a sale. Agencies scamming for sales don’t have the patience or follow-through for a scheme with such a long germination window.
The following scenarios seem more likely:
- A disgruntled defendant left the review as a way of pay-back (or they had a lackey do it for them to keep their name off your radar).
- This could also be a case of a mistaken identity where they mistook my client’s Google My Business post for that of their own lawyer.
3 Steps for Responding to a Negative Review
Either way, Google only removes reviews under extreme circumstances. So, what can the average business owner do? A lot!
On its face, a negative customer review may ‘feel’ like a disaster. But responding to a negative review intelligently could be an opportunity to strengthen your brand and make a statement to future clients about the level of service you offer.
How should businesses respond to bad reviews? Follow these three steps to turn a negative review into an opportunity:
- Get more reviews
- Report the negative review (if it’s fraudulent)
- Reply to negative feedback
That last step may be the most effective. My client only had 2 reviews on their GMB page which meant the one negative review accounted for 50% plus of their score!
With these 3 steps, my client was able to take their 2-star review up to 5-stars on that review platform in just one afternoon. Ultimately squashing the effects of that single wayward review.
Step 1: Get more reviews by leveraging your network.
Email your personal and professional network (people you’re on a first-name basis with) and ask them for a positive review. Break up your network email list into small batches of 3-5 email addresses. Then send a simple, short email out once a week to each small batch. Be sure to BCC your email addresses so your network doesn’t end up on a nightmare email thread. Here’s a sample email:
I just noticed a negative google review that I need help pushing down. The review is over the top and NOT from a past client of mine. Beyond addressing this one wayward review, reviews are the lifeblood of any business so having a new one would just be great in general.
Please pop into Google right now and leave me a review about any of the awesome work we’ve done together in the past. A short and sweet referral that name drops me, my business, and the specific service you benefited from would be great.
Click here to leave me a review: <InsterReviewLink>
If you’ve already left me a review in the past, you can still help me now! If you’ve referred me to friends before and they’ve raved about me, you can leave a review ‘on their behalf’ and talk about how great I did handling your referral (you don’t have to give their name though).
Thank you so much for your help here, I really appreciate it.
You can get your ‘review link’ by clicking the ‘Google Reviews’ text next to the star rating on your Google listing,. Once the read reviews window pops up, copy the URL from the browsers.
Step 2: Report the review to Google.
To report a review to google, you should follow these steps. In all my years of doing this, I’ve never seen Google remove a review but I’ve heard others have had success so give it a try.
Step 3: Respond to the negative review with empathy.
How to respond to a bad review? Even if the reviewer is aggressive and blatantly wrong, your reply should be non-combative. Angle to take the conversation offline to come to a resolution or clarification.
- Apologize and sympathize in your response to the negative review. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns.
- Insert a little marketing in your response to the bad review. …
- Move the conversation offline. …
- Keep your response simple, short and sweet.
In this way, you show future clients you’re committed to customer service and that they can expect an amicable, solutions-focused response from your customer service team. Here’s a sample negative review response template:
The needs and concerns of our clients and their families are always our top concern and it’s very important to us that we find a resolution to your satisfaction. I’m going to have my team try to reach out to you but in the meantime, here’s my email, please do reach out so we can schedule a conversation and address your concerns: <InsertEmailAddress>.
Lucky for my client, they have a very broad network and were able to email a couple of colleagues right away to ask for reviews. And while they deployed the above tactic over the course of a month or so, it only took about 5 fresh reviews to counteract the damage done.
Other ways to to respond to negative Google reviews.
If you really want to take your DIY reputation management to the next level when dealing with negative reviews, there are 3 follow-up steps you can take:
- Send a follow-up email out to the same network thanking them for their reviews. Then ask them to revisit that same link and ‘like’ all the positive reviews they see. This adds a little more juice to the reviews and helps establish social proof and authority with the search engines.
- Ask a couple strategic colleagues to ‘report’ the negative review themselves to google. It’s just a couple clicks, not heavy lifting.
- If the issue is resolved offline, circle back and reply to the initial negative review again. Reiterate the basic resolution and make a small ask to the post author asking them to emend their post. Example:
Great speaking with you and thank you for understanding the new covid-related regulations that prevent us from offering certain amenities like the complimentary glass of wine. As I mentioned when we spoke, we do have your complimentary bottle (upgrade!) ready for pickup at your convenience -or- give us a call and we can arrange a ‘delivery’!
My team strives to deliver amazing spa experiences that leave clients feeling beautiful and we always work hard to address misunderstandings. Please do consider amending your review to reflect our efforts to ensure that your M Spa experience was indeed a beautiful one.
To find and edit your review, use the link below, select our review, and click edit.
Thank you so much and Stay Beautiful,
As you can see, there are many ways to manage the aftermath of a negative review.
One last tip. If you realize you don’t have the option to respond to a negative Google review, it probably means you are either logged in to the wrong Google account or you haven’t claimed your Google business listing. We’ve addressed both of those issues for you in our article, ‘How to Create a Google Account for Business: A Complete Guide‘.
North Star advises clients to actively seek reviews from happy clients on a regular basis. Some clients have an involved Reputation management process/system which is great. But it can be as simple as sending a follow-up email with a convenient link asking point-blank for the review. Great online reviews, also make an amazing addition to web pages and help SEO. You can read more about what SEO is and why it’s important here.
Relatedly, if you’re interested in boosting your business’s online visibility with on-page search engine optimization (via content writing), we can help. Schedule a free consultation here to get started.
Remember that no matter what happens in life- good or bad- it’s always possible to make lemonade out of lemons.