As readers of my ongoing series about local SEO already know, obtaining Google reviews from customers has always been a worthwhile endeavor for businesses. These days, getting reviews and managing them are more important than ever. But what happens when you inevitably get a negative review? Does your business know how to respond to negative reviews on Google? If not, have no fear…read on to learn how to respond to negative reviews and improve your business’s reputation in the process.
The Importance of Google Reviews
Google is, in many cases, the first point of contact between a business and a potential customer. Whether a person is looking up a phone number for a specific business or searching out a nearby product or service, Google is the place where most people go.
When Google displays relevant business search results, Google business reviews are prominently displayed in the search results. This allows the person searching to quickly compare potential businesses, and sometimes can be enough to sway their decision before they go any further!
Take, for example, this search for plumbers
Right away, the searcher is presented with the Google 3 Pack, which features several options of businesses with everything from 5 star reviews to zero reviews.
When you click on one of the businesses, you are taken to a new page, which features both more information on the business that was clicked, as well as more business results along the left hand side.
Clicking on one of the business listings that has a lower overall rating, you will see that this business has several 1 star reviews.
The searcher can drill down into these reviews to read about the customers’ experiences.
With this example, it is easy to see the immediate impact that Google reviews can have on the decision making process of potential customers.
Why Should You Respond to Google Reviews?
Many brick and mortar businesses downplay the importance of their online presence, and too many often completely ignore their online reviews. If you fall into this category, it is time to make a change!
In May 2018, Google My Business announced the launch of notifications to inform customers when a business owner responds to their reviews, with plans to release mobile push notifications at a later date.
When a business responds to a customer review, the owner’s response is published immediately, and the customer is sent an email notification five minutes later. This delay will allow a business owner to edit/correct their response before the customer is notified.
The email notification informs the customer that the business owner has responded to their review, and includes a link to the response.
This announcement by Google is important for several reasons.
First, it indicates that Google reviews are becoming increasingly interactive. As other Google features (such as the Knowledge Panel, which includes Google Question & Answers and booking buttons) are becoming more and more transactional platforms, this new feature Is one step further along the path where Google isn’t simply connecting a searcher with a business, but is instead the platform on which the two interact.
Additionally, this move by Google is a clear reflection of consumer expectations. Previously, a reviewer would leave a review primarily to make their voice heard, to praise a business, warn fellow consumers, or simply to document their experience.
Conversely, this new model encourages and expects the consumer review to be the first step in a two-way dialog between consumers and businesses. When a consumer leaves a negative review, and is then notified that the business has responded, there is a good chance that the consumer will further engage with the business. They may even give the business another try.
Contrast that to a scenario where a consumer leaves a negative review, and the business fails to respond. The lack of response will likely be perceived by the consumer as indifference, which will certainly motivate future decisions by the consumer.
The Impact of Negative Google Reviews
Every business, at one point or another, will be faced with a dissatisfied customer (thus the expression “you can’t please all the people all the time”). This is just an expected part of doing business, and is a common denominator across all businesses.
Years ago, a dissatisfied customer would likely use word of mouth to spread their displeasure. While this could be problematic, the individual consumer’s overall sphere of influence was relatively limited.
Today, things have changed. Now a dissatisfied customer can go straight to the internet to express their displeasure, and their negative comments are nearly instantly visible to anyone who happens to search for your business, product or services.
Considering that some surveys indicate that as much as 90% of customers claim buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, you cannot underestimate the impact that a negative review can have on your business.
You should not ask yourself “what if I get a negative Google review?” Instead, you should ask yourself “how should I respond to a negative Google review?”
How to Respond to Negative Reviews on Google
One challenge when faced with negative Google reviews is that anyone can leave a negative review…they don’t necessarily have to be a customer. Reviews can also be quite anonymous, so it is virtually impossible to prove a reviewer’s identity.
The first step in responding to a negative review is to take a deep breath. As a business owner, it can be infuriating to discover that someone has left a negative review. Your initial reaction might be to lash out at the reviewer. However, it will be much better for your business to take a moment to calm down, and to think about how future business prospects will react to both the negative review and how your business reacted to it.
Whenever possible, view this as an opportunity for some very public customer service. Use Google’s platform to demonstrate how important customers are to your business.
Be sure to promptly reply to any negative feedback. Not only will you have the opportunity to convert this dissatisfied into a new fan (perhaps you could offer a new product, a full or partial refund, offer to talk to them personally off-line, etc.), but when your response is published then every other future searcher will see how your business deals with customers. Yes, there really is a way to turn a negative review into a positive experience!
Depending on the severity of the negative review, it might be advisable to go beyond Google, and take to social media. This is especially true if you happen to be the victim of fake negative reviews.
In such an event, it can be helpful to show a “human side” of your business, and write about your experience on your company’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page. However, be very careful with this! You do not want to be perceived as “whining” or being vindictive, because this could end up causing more damage than the negative review itself!
Another tactic you can use to deal with negative reviews is to ask your loyal customers to leave reviews of your business. If they are loyal repeat customers, it is highly likely that they will leave a positive review. Over time, a larger number of positive reviews will offset the negative effects of a bad review.
Negative Google reviews might be unavoidable, but the detrimental effects of negative reviews can certainly be minimized. A business’s response to negative reviews is critical, and hopefully this article on how to respond to negative reviews on Google has given you a great starting point the next time you face less-than-stellar feedback from the public.
Has your business had some experience dealing with negative Google reviews? If so, I’d love to hear from you about your experience…please leave a comment below.
Leading image courtesy of bluecorona.com