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For modern businesses, a negative Google review can feel like its make or break – but how you respond and manage bad reviews, determines the potential impact.

It is vital to have a review strategy in place, so let’s look at what marketing tactics you can use to manage any negativity that comes your way, and how to handle reviews without the stress factor.

The Power of the Google Review

Customer feedback is massively valuable and can help us improve our businesses, products, services, and client experience across the board.

Managing reviews, being proactive about requesting feedback, and taking the time to address any adverse ratings is crucial! Taking the initiative is all about reputation management, so ignoring bad feedback can only stand to make things worse, or reinforce the validity of the review for prospective new clients. If you assume your customers are happy – and they aren’t – it is impossible to know what changes you might make that would instantly improve your Google ratings.

Likewise, if you want to road-test something new, your customers are your first stop in evaluating what works well, and what needs a tweak! However, negative Google reviews can be a huge challenge: 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Creating a Culture of Growth

OK, so we know the value of reviews and allowing your customers an independent forum to air their experiences. However, negative reviews are not to be feared!

  • Positive reviews provide that feel-good factor, and attract new customers – but don’t give any scope for improvement.
  • Negative reviews are an opportunity to showcase how much you value your clients, with a public medium to deal with the issue.
  • Learning and growth are integral to the success of any organisation, and having the humility to accept when things haven’t gone well adds that personal, human touch.
  • Some businesses can also see a conversely positive effect, when having dealt with bad reviews professionally, thoroughly, and with the dedication to putting things right.

One of the most disastrous things you can do, if you’ve got a negative Google review, is to ignore it. The second most disastrous thing you can do? Be defensive! And the icing on the cake? Assigning an untrained member of staff to ‘make the problem go away’.

Here at Woya Digital, we have dealt with countless crisis response issues and damage control initiatives, and they almost always have a common thread. Companies might see social media or their digital presence as solely a marketing ‘technique’ – and devaluing the critical importance of these public spaces can be damaging.

If you appreciate the importance of your online presence, and how this touchpoint marks the first impression almost every client will have of your business, that sets the tone for handling negativity with a constructive attitude.

Here are a few things to think about, before firing off an angry reply:

  • Is the review accurate?
  • Can you correct the situation?
  • What has this taught you?
  • How can you make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again?

Great responses always work to provide a solution, where possible, and work with the customer to give the business a chance to understand what’s gone wrong. And EVERY review should be responded to, whether positive or negative.

A customer who takes the time to write down how they feel is your secret weapon in organic marketing, so always take the time to reply thoughtfully, promptly, and with thanks for the effort taken to provide constructive feedback about your service.

The Negative Google Review Tool Kit

OK, so you’ve had a terrible review, it’s splashed all over Google, and your five-star rating has just dropped down a notch.

It’s not a great feeling, but it’s how you deal with it that matters now.

  1. Take your time to read the review, understand the problem, and investigate the facts. Replying without knowing what’s happened internally can make things much worse, so make sure you have all the information you need before entering into a discussion.
  2. Always respond – even if to acknowledge the feedback, and advise that you are investigating. Yes, sometimes customers see this as a ‘cop-out’ – but only if you never do get back to them!
  3. Discuss the situation with your staff, and ask for honest appraisals about the situation. There are two sides to every story so, while the customer is king, don’t be quick to place blame or fault without everybody having the opportunity to have their input.
  4. Respond publicly. It’s always tempting to send off an email or have a private call. These are great to follow up with, and demonstrate how seriously you are taking the situation! However, a lousy public Google review with zero response is not a good look.
  5. Acknowledge what went wrong. We’re all human, mistakes do happen, and there’s nothing negative about owning up to your shortcomings.
  6. For whatever reason, someone who spends money with you feels unhappy. Always be apologetic for the inconvenience or the upset – because drilling down into the cause can be a powerful way to prevent any recurrences.
  7. Ask questions! If you need to know more, or you would like to understand why your customer is upset, ask them for the information you need.
  8. Provide a solution. In some cases, a disgruntled customer might not want a replacement product, a refund, or some other compensation, but you should always offer.
  9. If your customer is satisfied with your response and the way their concern was handled, you can request they update their review; with no pressure!

If you’ve responded, offered your appreciation for the feedback, given a solution, provided context where appropriate, and apologised – you’ve done everything possible.

Keep your cool, be calm and respectful, and NEVER resort to bad language! Customers will see this just as clearly as the poor review itself, and so your response shows how your marketing team deals with problems – which can be a big fat positive.

Ever seen a review where a customer claims they haven’t had delivery, or that nobody has responded to a customer services enquiry? If the reply below is polite, adds a little context, or offers an apology and a fast resolution, you would be far more likely to trust the business to have your back if something does go wrong, and deal with them in future.

Dealing with Fake on Malicious Google Reviews

Now, there is another potential scenario and one that can feel a lot more complex to unpick. What do you do when you’ve had a negative Google review, and you believe it to be inaccurate or malicious?

Fake reviews are infuriating, however again, keep your cool. Fake reviews do happen, and it is a by-product of the digital era that sometimes, people will post malicious content for no reason other than to cause disruption.

  • Problem: You’ve received a negative Google review, and believe it to be untrue.

Solution: Respond explaining your perspective, and ask for clarity if the customer believes your information to be inaccurate. Always be respectful, even if you suspect the reviewer is just after a freebie!

  • Problem: A bad Google review is fake.

Solution: If you’re certain a negative review is fake, you should still respond. The best solution is to present the facts explaining why you believe the review isn’t legitimate.

  • Problem: Your business is the target of malicious fake reviews.

Solution: We’ve all heard of competitors using this marketing tactic to discredit rivals – and if you are sure a review is fake, you can submit a request to Google to remove it.

Negative Google reviews can feel like a marketing disaster – but by following a clear strategy, and knowing the best techniques to manage your response process means they don’t have to be. Remember that reviews mean you get to understand what you’re getting right, and what you’re getting wrong.

By placing equal importance at both ends of the spectrum, you can improve your business visibility on Google, and present your business in the best possible light, in any scenario!

For more support with growing your digital presence, leveraging online marketing tools for business growth, or help with optimising your online activity through the intricate art of SEO, get in touch with the Woya Digital team.