How Do I Deal With Bad Google Reviews?
Answer: Listen to your clients and customers with an open mind, reply in a professional manner, and follow the prescribed steps to dispute any fake or malicious reviews.
We all get upset and, let’s be honest, at least a little defensive, when we find that someone has left us a bad review.
You get an email from Google with the bad news. Or you check on your company with a Google search and see the lower rating score. Maybe you find out when routinely checking your Google my Business backend. In every case you ask yourself the same question: “what can I do?”
In this article we will attempt to break down the process by which you can dispute or at least mitigate the damage these reviews can do to your business. But first, let us consider…
Are Google reviews really that important?
Yes. It’s just that simple. More and more, a savvy client base considers the relative merits of your goods or services vs. those provided by your competitors.
Every time someone googles your company the Google Places entry displays prominently its name and address, a picture of your logo, a map and a number of yellow and/or greyed stars. And most people only need to catch a sideways glance of those stars to arrive to a first impression of your company. You want a bunch of those yellow ones. The more the better–all the way to five!
So, this system doesn’t seem fair, where anyone can easily criticize your business and influence the public’s perception of it, regardless of the merits of their claims. But with a little work and patience, the very same system can become a powerful virtual “word-of-mouth” advertising platform for your business. You just have to manage it a little.
It’s your business. You need a VERIFIED Google My Business account. You need to be an owner on this account, or at least have someone really great looking after things for you. Because when the #%*& hits the fan and you get a bad review, you need to know it’s happening. Something needs to be done before your reputation is ruined. So that’s #1 priority – verify your listing and make sure someone pro-active & competent is monitoring the account.
How To Handle Bad Google Reviews
Not all bad reviews are the same.
This is a very important concept to properly understand, because your response will need to vary greatly as you determine in which category each negative review belongs.
Undisputable bad reviews
We do our very best to please our customers, we go “the extra mile”, as the saying goes, but being human means we have limits, and we simply cannot please everyone all the time. So we get some negative or tepid reviews, and we wonder what to do about them. Sometimes people’s expectations are too high. We’ve seen 1 star reviews because our client didn’t answer the phone, made an honest mistake or may not have given the customer enough attention. Maybe the reviewer was having a bad day. You can’t dispute these reviews.
Other reviews you can’t dispute include ones that are vague, or only have the ratings, or other negative comments where you have no proof it’s done by somebody with ill-intent. Sucks, but it’s life. Best you can do is respond appropriately, bury the bad reviews with good ones and dispute the inappropriate reviews.
For any review, you have an opportunity for rebuttal - a chance to apologize or tell your side of the story as the situation merits. As soon as humanly possible, open your Google My Business account and head straight for the “Reviews” area to re-read the bad review and reply to its author.
Consider the client’s perspective before beginning to compose your response. Your objective here is not to win an argument but to win try to over a disgruntled customer and tip the balance with the audience.
If the complaint isn’t clear, do not hesitate to cordially ask for clarification. Let them know you are concerned and willing to remedy the situation. Offer to solve the issue. If they reply, and you succeed, asked them to remove the bad review – or even better, to change it to a good one. Maybe your response includes “I’m sorry but we have no record of you being a client of ours”.
When there is no appeasing the complainant or where you have no control over the situation itself, you can still show them you are disappointed on not being able to resolve their issues.
Above all, DO NOT IGNORE BAD REVIEWS.
Reviews You Can Dispute
We do see many reviews that are unfair and have no business being on your business listing.
Google Reviews you can dispute include ones that:
- Contain hate speech or vulgar language
- Are done by current or past employees
- Are from by competitors
- Are irrelevant to your business
- Are of an advertising nature
There are also some other cases that don’t fall under Google’s main categories that you can plead your case with Google.
How To Dispute Bad Google Reviews
There is a procedure for disputing bad Google Reviews. Believe it or not, you can talk to a real person at Google – but first you need to follow some preliminary steps.
You will not always be successful. In fact, it’s fairly difficult to get a review removed unless you have hard evidence the review is in contravention of Google’s guidelines for online reviews.
STEP 1 – Gather evidence
Establish why the review should be removed. Sometimes this is easy, like rude or offensive language. In many cases you will know who wrote the review. It could be under a fake name or you may have recently fired an employee. If you can link the review the person to a competitor business or if the reviewer is a past or present employee of your business, great.
STEP 2 – Respond to the review
In my experience, Google insists you respond to the review, even if it being disputed. Log into your account and respond in a professional way. Personally, I don’t feel you should roll over in all situations, but think of how others will perceive your response. The reviewer will get a notification when you respond, so be careful.
STEP 3 – Flag the review
Next to the review there should be a flag or there may be a three-dots or elliptic menu with the option to select “flag as inappropriate”.
In the following page Google will ask you to identify yourself via your email and choose a violation type:
You should choose the one that most closely fits your complaint. For instance, if you have positively determined the review comes from a competitor, you should choose the conflict of interest option. Not all cases will find an appropriate match in the options list, but the “off-topic” option can act as a fair catch-all for a number of cases.
Note that as of now, there is no real area to add an explanation. A checkbox is all you get for now.
STEP 4: Wait 72 hours
It takes a while for the heavy machinery of Google to put their gears into motion, and there is never assurance that they will accept your complaint on the first try.
Wait 72 hours and check to see if the review has been removed. If it hasn’t and you really feel you have a case, then you need a real person at Google to help.
STEP 5: Contact Google Support
You need to be logged into your Google account.
To talk to a live person at Google: click the following link: Talk to a Google My Business Specialist
You can get to a similar page through your Google My Business account (Support – Need more help – customer reviews and photos (in “Find a solution” window)– review removal issues – contact support)
The advantage of going through the Google My Business account is that there are a couple more boxes to explain the issue. You also have the choice of getting an email OR a phone call from Google.
In either case, you will be asked to identify yourself, relationship to the business and a couple more bits of info.
If you have requested a phone call, you should get one immediately – no waiting 60 mins+ like you do with your cable company. The Google rep on the phone will ask some questions and discuss your reasons for requesting removal of the review(s).
If you have requested an email, check your email. I don’t know how quickly Google responds by email, because personally, I have always phoned.
After this, you will have to wait for their decision. Good luck.
To close, I would like to reiterate the importance of taking the whole reviews process very seriously. From the moment you launch your online presence, reviews and review management must be made a priority. Unfair reviews can often be removed. It’s up to you to be your own advocate. The reputation of your business on the line.
With Google My Business being so prominent, you want those great reviews to shine!