What should you do if you receive a negative Google review?
Is there anything you can do?
Google reviews can be a blessing or a curse. A five-star rating from a happy customer is always welcomed, but what do you do if your company receives a negative Google review? Is there anything you can do to protect your company’s reputation?
The Bad and Ugly of Google Reviews
Several months ago, I received a call from a client who had worked hard for many years to build his business. He was distraught. He had a number of positive reviews from satisfied clients on his Google local page, and that day, he received a 1 star Google review. He was understandably troubled.
The name and photo of the person who wrote the review was attached to the review, but my client couldn’t remember the name or the face. After searching Google for the person’s name and combing through his records, he remembered. This person had been a former client from over 5 years ago.
What was more disturbing was that my client couldn’t remember any negative outcome of his business relationship with this person. He wanted to know what he could do, if he should contact this person, or if he could write to Google and ask the search engine giant to remove the review.
Why Are Google Reviews so Important?
My client has a valid concern about that negative review he received. Reviews on Google are public for anyone to read. If you search for a local business on Google, you may notice a link to Google reviews listed right along with the results in local search results.
The statistics about how many people use online reviews to check out a local business before doing business with or making a purchase from are fascinating.
The following are key results in BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2014. The objective of this survey was to “understand how online reviews influence the attitudes of consumers toward local businesses and how they directly influence the purchase of local business services.”
- 88% have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business
- 39% read reviews on a regular basis
- 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
I am an online review reader from Amazon reviews and Google reviews to the reviews on lake houses that we have rented in the past. Those reviews have made an impact on my purchasing decision. Chances are, your customers read online reviews, too.
Google on Reviews
In my client’s situation, we turned to Google to find out how to go about having the negative review removed. The search Goliath has review policy is very specific about what is considered grounds for a review removal that includes:
- Phone numbers or URLs
- Off-topic reviews
- Keep it clean
- Conflict of interest
- Illegal content
- Copyrighted content
- Sexually Explicit Material
- Personal and confidential information
- Hate Speech
To read Google’s entire review policy, please see, Review content policies.
Action Plan for Negative Google Reviews
Having a strategy to combat negative reviews is a first step.
- Do not panic.
Receiving a negative Google review is alarming, and it is important to know your options. There is hope.
- Report it to Google.
If the review violates Google’s review policy, you can flag it and report a policy violation. If you feel that the review warrants removal based on applicable laws, you can fill out Google’s form at: Removing Content From Google.
- Reach Out to the Reviewer
If you are able to and it doesn’t violate your business’ regulations, politely and professionally contact the negative reviewer. Ask how you can correct the situation. You may consider offering a refund or a discount.
Elizabeth Lewis, attorney and owner of the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C. suggests that, “The business, if at all possible, should contact the negative reviewer and ask how to fix the situation. After the situation is remedied, a polite request to remove the review may be granted. If removal of the review isn’t available, if the situation has been fixed, the negative reviewer may be willing to write a new, more positive, review.”
- Encourage Positive Reviews
My friend, Heidi Garland is the owner of Guild West Agency, a marketing firm in San Jose, California established in 1986. Her advice is golden when it comes to negative press,
“The solution to pollution is dilution.”
To dilute the impact of the negative review, encourage satisfied customers to write a positive Google review. By doing this, the positive reviews will push down and outnumber the negative.
Google even offers advice on encouraging reviews for your business:
“Remind your customers to leave feedback on Google. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.”
For ideas on how to encourage reviews, please see, Ways to encourage legitimate reviews.
Negative Review Cases
The impact of negative reviews on business owners can be tragic enough that they take legal action. If you search for “negative Google review lawsuit”, you will find a number of companies that have taken legal action against negative online reviews with headlines including:
- Lawyer sues over bad Google Plus review
- Oregon Church Sues Woman Over Bad Google Review In $500K Defamation Suit
According to Reputation Management, “As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to sue your customers, so suing over a negative review should always be considered a last resort. Lawsuits over negative reviews rarely generate positive press, and in fact, they may draw more attention to a negative reputation.”
Please note: I am not an attorney and if you feel that you need to take legal action, please contact an experienced attorney.
Wrapping it Up
Unfortunately, in my client’s case, there weren’t many options. The review did not violate any of Google’s review guidelines. In the end, my client decided not to re-engage with the person who wrote the negative review. His action plan was to encourage legitimate reviews.
Receiving a negative Google review is alarming, but there is hope when you have a solid action plan.
First, are you one who reads online reviews? Do they impact your buying decisions?
Second, have you ever received a negative Google review? What action steps did you take to resolve the situation?
I would love to hear your thoughts and for you to share your experience.