How to Overcome a Bad Google Business Review with a Professional Response

Don’t let one bad review spoil your online reputation

Last year, I helped a small business owner, let’s call him ‘Sam’, get registered in Google Business listings. I explained that without ‘being in Google maps,’ his business wouldn’t show up in local search results.

We created a Google Business listing with photos of his work. Still, with zero reviews, it lacked credibility despite his 30 years in business. A competitor had over 20 reviews and a 4.8 rating. Sam tried asking customers to leave a review for him. Two of them gave him a 5-star rating but without an accompanying review.

Then things went from bad to worse when an irate customer left him a 1-star review. The review was pretty insulting and spoke of poor workmanship. It included some photos and the complaint that the work was left unfinished. I texted Sam. He explained that the job was custom, the homeowner had under-ordered, so he had to leave the job unfinished when the materials ran out. He also had a few choice words about having twice been told he could come to finish the job and having driven a long-distance only to find he couldn’t get in to complete the work.

“I don’t think it’s worth it,” Sam said. “Do you really think we have to be in Google Maps? Can you get the review deleted? I don’t care about having Google reviews when I have the testimonials on my website.”

I explained that we needed the Google Business listing with its location information. Having such a listing meant anyone could create a Google account and leave a review. We could only request that a review be deleted if it violated Google’s policies in some way, such as using profanity or being written by a competitor of the business.

“Let me research the best way to respond,” I offered. After scouring online and talking to other business owners, here was the best advice. Not all of these applied to Sam’s situation, but I’m including them in case they help another reader.

Tips for Responding to a Bad Google Review

1) If the poor review comes as a surprise, see what you can do to make the customer happy. Not just in hopes of them changing their review, but because it’s a good business practice. Try to see things from the customer’s side. Can you reach out to them to learn more? Perhaps buried in their criticism is a valuable idea for improving the business.

2) Avoid making personal attacks in your response. Trying to discredit the reviewer or calling them an idiot will not convince potential customers that they want to do business with you.

3) Remember your ultimate goal is to present yourself and your business as someone a customer would trust and want to work with. If you take pride in your business’s track record, say that you are disappointed, not irritated, to see the review. If you’ve taken steps to ensure other customers will fare better, talk about it.

4) Use the search terms that you want your business to be found under in your response. You could include a line in your response along the lines of, “We are disappointed to learn that our insert keywords here service, didn’t meet your needs.”

5) Take a measured approach to responding. Collect the facts. Write a draft response and get feedback from others before posting your reply. Be polite. Be professional. You are writing to your next potential customer, not the guy who wrote the review.

Tips for Rebounding from a Bad Google Review

If you’ve tried to understand and please your unhappy customer and you’ve written and posted a response, there are still a couple steps to help restore the business’s online reputation.

1) Try to get more positive reviews.

More positive reviews will raise the overall rating (number of stars). Suppose your business’s reviews are overwhelmingly positive. In that case, one or two negative reviews will make people think, “Hey, there’s always someone you can’t make happy.”

You can give your customers a direct link to review your business. At the time of this writing, you could create such a direct link by clicking the “Share review form” button on the home page of the Google Business listing.

If you have testimonials that you collected for your website, you could email some of those folks and ask them to provide a similar statement within Google reviews.

2) Post about your business activities with photos and enthusiasm.

You can’t control whether others take the time to rate or review your business. However, you can create a business post that will help people see your business in a positive light. Whether you take a photo of your business or post a recent project, just a photo and a few words will help people see your business in a positive light.

Now to return to Sam’s story

We wrote a response together explaining that the custom-nature of the job and homeowner’s supply purchase had meant the job could not be completed on the original schedule. It was politely pointed out that to be fair to other customers, Sam had to complete their work before returning to the original job. I felt it met the criteria of showing Sam was reasonable, reliable and professional.

But after we posted the response, things got worse. While I emailed a few folks who had provided testimonials, none of them responded. And then the unhappy customer posted a second 1-star review about the business under his girlfriend’s name.

In this case, I contacted Google Business support, first through their form and then through the chat function. I explained that this is one customer who is posing as two different people. I pointed out that both accounts referenced the same photos and had no other reviews in Google. About 12 hours after I contacted Google Business support, the second review was deleted.

Then a week or so later, a new customer posted a glowing review. Phew!

No such thing as negative publicity?

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as negative publicity.

A negative Google Business review can feel like an unjustified attack for small business owners, something that undermines all the hard work they have put into their business.

But public criticism is an opportunity for the business owner to show how they respond to pressure. Consider it a chance to demonstrate if you can see someone else’s perspective. How you react to a bad review indicates just how committed your business is to meeting customer needs and treating people respectfully.

So, take a deep breath, go for a walk, shake off the bad feelings that bad review brought, and then offer a sincere response that demonstrates your business beliefs and practices. You do have the power to overcome a bad Google Business review.

Programmer by day. Author by night. As I put on running tights, I imagine I’m a superhero. Creator of More on me:

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