These days, Google Reviews are impossible to ignore. While they can be a company's biggest asset, if your business has any online presence at all, a bad review will unfortunately land on your virtual doorstep at some stage.
Despite doing a great job at putting your customers first, building a reputation that you're proud of and delivering a high-quality service that exceeds expectations, unhappy customers are one of life's great certainties, a bit like death and taxes.
But never fear! We're going to show you how to manage both negative and fake reviews, turning lemons into lemonade, frowns upside down, and unhappy chappies into repeat customers and ultimately, cheerleaders for your business.
The influence of a Google Review
A Google Review is way more than just a throwaway comment on the internet. They significantly affect your business's reputation and, ultimately, your overall appeal to customers. Here's how:
Google Reviews impact SEO
Like you, Google has a reputation to uphold. To maintain it's reputation as the go-to search engine, its algorithms search for fresh, positive and relevant content. User-generated content (like reviews, Q&As and so on) help keep your Google Business Profile active and engaging, impacting where your business appears on the search engine results page (SERP).
Google Reviews can help or hinder new business
Potential customers heavily rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions. A low star rating or a series of 1-star reviews will often, quite understandably, steer a customer to the competition across the street! By the same token, a solid rating and a tonne of positive feedback can be the reason why a potential customer calls you first.
A great reputation attracts staff and boosts morale
Positive reviews serve as a morale booster for your employees, knowing they're on a winning team. On the flip side, a bad online reputation can be a big de-motivator for people who want to be associated with reputable businesses.
Additionally, if your Google Reviews and star rating indicate you’re the best in town, they're a super cost-effective and influential advertising campaign to attract high-quality recruits. How good?!
The consequences of ignoring a negative Google Review
Is your first instinct to simply ignore a bad review? Or worse, disregard your Google Reviews altogether and leave your online reputation up to chance?
While it can be tempting, please don’t do this!
Overlooking a negative Google Review can have far-reaching, long-lasting consequences. If you choose not to act, it will ultimately signal a lack of concern for customer feedback. A lack of response to a review breaks trust and confidence among existing clients, future customers and staff.
Negative feedback that needs to be addressed can linger, and in this digital age, where online reputation holds huge weight, neglecting bad reviews can damage your brand image, customer base, and bottom line.
When you get a minute, check out this article highlighting why local businesses need to prioritise Google Reviews rather than a ‘she’ll be right’ approach.
First, is the negative review real or spam?
Before you get behind the keyboard and follow the urge to write an emotionally charged reply, take a minute to read over the review. The aim is to determine whether the review is genuine or has been left by a make-believe customer looking to damage your online reputation.
There have been cases of disgruntled former employees or jealous competitors leaving damaging reviews. Once you have a clear idea of the source and determined its authenticity, you’ll be ready to take action. Here are the things to look out for:
Evaluate the tone, language and details of the review
Genuine reviews often include specific experiences, while fake ones might be overly positive or negative without substance.
Check to see if the reviewer has left reviews for other businesses
This is another way to identify whether the reviewer is genuine, a keyboard warrior who seems to be unhappy with everything and everyone, or whether they are a fake account that has been set up for sabotage.
Pro tip: You can check a reviewer's history by clicking on the review count directly under their name and above the star rating they have left you.
Jot down the reviewer's name and cross-check it with your records to see if they have been a customer in the past.
Just remember, a customer must have a Google Account to leave a review. Some people may have multiple Google Accounts with nicknames or aliases, so while you may not recognise them, don’t be too quick to reply with “it’s a fake, it’s a fugazi”.
How to deal with fake Google Reviews
Encountering a fake review can be frustrating, but don't worry, we've got your back! There’s a solution for everything. Here’s a great approach:
Craft a replyGoogle can take time to remove a fake review after being flagged. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to craft a quick response that shows any reader that you are proactive in addressing feedback and that the review is likely to be inauthentic. Something along the lines of the template below.
I just saw your review about [service].
We're a bit puzzled, as we can't match your experience with any of our customer records. We're all ears to sort this out and make things right, so if you could drop us a quick line with some more info [phone or email] —like when you visited or what you tried—it would be super helpful.
We're serious about giving everyone a top-notch service, so we're eager to chat”.
Flag the fake review to be removed by GoogleThe good news is that fake reviews breach Google's Prohibited & Restricted Content policy, so if you’re confident it’s all a facade, you can flag the review to have it removed.
Check out this article for step-by-step instructions on how to flag a fake review.
Don't be shy; hurry Google along if you need to!Honestly, we recommend it. Unfortunately, the team at Google are very busy people, and the online reputation of your business may not be their most pressing matter, so we suggest doing a bit of leg work to speed up the removal process.
Pro tip: The best way to do this is to contact Google directly via their support line, which you can find here.
Responding to an honest, negative review
After you’ve taken a deep breath and ‘reviewed the review,’ it’s time to craft a strategic response and turn the ship around. Remember, it’s not just the reviewer you’re responding to; your potential customers are also reading these reviews and your replies.
Tips for responding to negative Google Reviews
- Open with a friendly greeting that matches their tone. Try to address the reviewer by name if they have provided it in their feedback.
- Address the specifics they've mentioned in their negative review quickly. Remember to show empathy and understanding.
- Offer a sincere apology and take responsibility for their experience - even if you're not at fault.
- Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
- Explain, but only after acknowledging and apologising first. Try to offer insight into what went wrong without seeming defensive.
- Offer a solution if you can. Consider a refund, revisit, or a discount if it’s appropriate.
- Remember to ask for a second chance. Ask the customer to consider revisiting so they can experience the excellent quality you’re usually known for.
- Take meaningful action to address the problem and let the customer know what changes you’ve made due to their insight.
- Invite the customer to share more details with you offline. Provide your contact details or customer service email to show you are serious about resolving this.
- Add a personal touch by signing off your response with your name.
For more in-depth help and examples of how to respond to negative reviews, check out this article.
The next step: Turn the ship around
After you've undertaken operation 'damage control' and resolved the issue raised in a negative review, it's a good time to consider reaching out to the customer to ask them to update or remove their review.
This may not be possible in every negative review case - You have to be sure you've properly addressed their concern and have implemented steps to prevent the issue from happening again, but we find that more often than not, a customer is eager to share their story of how you turned a bad experience into a great one.
A great way to approach this is via private email or phone call.
Begin by expressing your gratitude for their feedback and sharing your sincere apology for any inconvenience they experienced. Highlight the steps you took to fix the problem and explain how their input helped you improve your service and set up checks and balances to prevent the same issue from cropping up again for future customers.
Politely ask if they would consider updating their review to reflect the positive changes made, emphasizing that their revised review can potentially guide other potential customers towards a better experience.
By approaching the request with humility, gratitude, and a focus on the customer's experience, you increase the likelihood of turning a negative review into a positive testament to your commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.
Just a reminder, Google Review Policy prohibits incentivising the removal of reviews. This means you can highlight what changes you've made and ask them to update or remove their review to reflect their full experience, but you can't offer freebies, discounts or other incentives in exchange for the removal of a review.
Believe it or not, there are some benefits to negative Google Reviews
The good news is it's not all doom and gloom! A negative review can be used to your advantage if you stay in the right frame of mind. Here are the things to remember:
- Negative feedback is a chance to learn and address shared issues. Addressing one customer's concern can potentially prevent similar problems for others, improving your overall experience.
- An unhappy customer who gives you feedback is better than an unhappy customer who shares their bad experience with their friends and family and never gives you the chance to learn and grow.
- Negative reviews allow you to rescue unhappy customers and turn them into repeat business. Check out our favourite service recovery strategies for guidance on how to get started on this for your business.
- Remember, you've also been given an opportunity to change the word-of-mouth narrative. Chances are, an unhappy customer will tell their friends and family about their experience. If you successfully turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, their story will have a happy ending that leaves your business in a great light rather than a dim one. It's worth the extra legwork!
How to turn a negative review into the needle in a haystack
The thing about reviews is that a single bad review in a sea of 100 or more positive reviews will make little difference to your business. If the masses are vouching for your outstanding service, readers are likely to assume that the problem rests more with the patron rather than your business.
A strong suite of 5-star reviews will improve your SEO, woo potential customers, impress job hunters, and eclipse that negative review, so it's almost impossible to find. That way, you can get on with what you do best, knowing you've got a tonne of positive reviews working hard to build and maintain your online reputation.
Don't know where to start when it comes to building your Google Reviews? We're here to lend a hand. If you're keen to get started building an online reputation that reflects your real-life excellence, we can help. See how betterbunch works, or book a demo if you're interested in learning how we might be able to grow your Google reviews.
- These days, Google Reviews simply can’t be ignored. They affect SEO, staff morale, and the potential for new customers to show up on your digital doorstep.
- When faced with bad reviews, differentiate between fake and genuine ones. Address fake reviews professionally and report them to Google if they breach Google’s Policies.
- Remember to embrace genuine negative reviews as opportunities for growth. Craft strategic responses that showcase your awesome customer service and commitment to improvement.
- Utilise negative feedback to enhance your services, and add "seeking positive reviews" to your business plan.
- Once you've resolved a problem raised in a negative review, consider reaching out to the customer, asking them to remove or update their review to reflect the extra work you've put in to solve their concerns.
- Remember, managing reviews isn't just about damage control; it's a chance to demonstrate and elevate your business's reputation and success.