That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. We all know what that feels like. It’s the moment when your business receives a negative review. And while it can be disappointing and even disheartening to receive a negative review, it’s not all bad news.
You’re Not Alone
We all get bad reviews from time to time. Miriam Ellis, owner of Moz.com says, “Make no mistake: No brand can prevent every sour note, but with owner response functionality, you can retune relationships with valuable customers... Owner response mastery is, indeed, smart business.”
Unfortunately, receiving negative reviews on your Google My Business page is part of being in the online space. But you’re not alone, and there are things that can be done to optimise the power of your reviews, whether negative or positive.
“Building a positive reputation and acquiring reviews can be tricky,” says Digital Doughnut’s Richard Hammond. ”In order to enable star ratings on your Google Customer Reviews badge and ad extensions, you’ll need an effective strategy in place.”
How Does It Work?
Google requires your Google My Business page to have received at least 5 reviews for the star rating to show. Encouraging customers to review your business is always a good idea, whether you include a note in your checkout page or in an email newsletter or conversation with clients. Hammond says almost seven in ten consumers will leave a review if asked, so it’s definitely worth asking the question.
Respond, respond, respond.
It’s imperative that you reply to every review your page receives. Yep, that’s every. single. one, whether negative or positive (unless there are legal implications – we will discuss this a little later). Hammond cites a recent study which found reviews to be the single most important ranking factor. Considerations taken into account include a number of reviews responded to, number of reviews not responded to and number of negative reviews not responded to, bearing a strong correlation with Google My Business search results.
Let’s take a look at the 3 main types of negative reviews.
1. Fake Review
This is a growing issue and in the online world, it’s very easy to create fake accounts and leave reviews for businesses, irrespective of whether you are a genuine customer. And while Google has a variety of ways to weed out fake reviews, Joy Hawkins from Moz.com says it’s our responsibility to find them and report them ourselves. “The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter or reporting via the forum.”
Hawkins’ advice when a negative review pops up is to “calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across the review and the way you respond to it,” she says and cites an example where she recently received three negative fake reviews in one day. She was able to have the reviews removed but says plan B was to offer the “customers” a 100% refund. “After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose,” she says. “This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.” Many believe a 5-star rating leads consumers to suspect censorship.
Deal with fake reviews by posting a short, professional owner response, alerting customers that it’s a false review, then flag the issue with Google. If you haven’t heard back within a day or two, contact Google directly or visit the Google My Business Community to request assistance.
2. Medium-Level Review
Customers who post 2-3 star reviews are undecided about whether or not they’re satisfied with the product or service they received. This is the perfect opportunity for you to help transform their feelings into more positive ones.
Firstly, read and re-read the review and take note of areas where the company may not be delivering up to scratch. Take note of your hits and misses.
As always, it’s vital that this review is responded to. Ellis says it’s best to respond by “thanking for praise, accepting responsibility for faults, apologizing for disappointments, and making some kind of an offer,” she says. “This offer, meant to sweeten the pitch that you hope the consumer will give your company a second chance, could be a comp or a coupon for future use, or it could simply be an explanation of how you have heard their feedback and made changes.” When writing your response it’s important to express your gratitude for the complaints, as well as the praise. Document both the positive and negative aspects of each review and ensure that the customer feels heart, “Cite their complaints back to them. By doing so, you are demonstrating to all future potential customers that your brand is responsive to feedback.”
3. Negative Review
When a business receives a single star rating, it can be very demoralising. This type of review is posted by a customer who has a specific and legitimate complaint. But all is not lost!
“Your job as the owner is to address their dissatisfaction, take responsibility, and, whenever possible, make an offer to make things right,” Ellis says. “A negative review is likely the last life preserver an unhappy customer will throw you — a last chance to earn them back with superior responsiveness.”
As with the middle-level review, ensure you respond well to the review by ensuring the customer is heard, thanking them for their feedback and taking note of your hits and misses. It’s important here that we apologize. The word ‘sorry’, is very powerful. And never EVER try to place blame. Humility is your best friend here.
If you’re willing to learn, customers will respect that and may even give you another try. Be honest about what contributed to the negative circumstance and discuss what you’re doing to improve the situation. And make it quick. Ellis says that while negative reviews can run for many paragraphs, a business owner’s response needs to be thorough, yet concise.
Make an offer – to discuss over the phone, or to make it right. The aim here is the ‘wow’ factor. “You want future potential customers to say, “Wow, this business really cares!” when they read the response,” she says.
Note: whether the review is positive or negative, true or false if any illegal or dangerous behaviour is discussed, it’s important to speak with a lawyer before taking any further action. Don’t respond or attempt to have it removed.
You’ll probably receive some negative reviews, there’s no getting around it. And they do have their place. According to Digital Doughnut, “Online reviews are arguably the only open, trusted method of engagement between businesses and consumers.” And with 64% of consumers in a recent study saying they read company reviews before entering a business transaction, the importance of managing reviews is clear.
And when it all comes down to it, gold old-fashioned customer service and genuine care are incredibly important, even in the world of online, largely faceless transactions. As mid-20th-century advertising executive Bill Bernbach said, it’s all about “treating the customer with respect.”