Here Are 5 Steps to Handle a Bad or Fake Google Review
Negative Google reviews are one of the scariest demons a small business can face. We’re living in the internet age, and harsh reviews can be a dealbreaker for potential customers. If a disgruntled customer leaves a nasty one-star review online, it will often become a top result when your business is googled. If you reach out to an unhappy customer with strong, personalized customer service, it’s possible to turn that negative review into a positive example of how your business treats customers. And if the review is obviously false, you might even get it removed by Google. Act quickly and follow these five steps to fix the bad review and clear your business’s image.
Stay calm and don’t respond if you’re upset.
When a bad review comes in, it’s easy to get emotional. Your business is like a part of you, and it’s easy to take a bad review as a personal attack. When that scathing review pops up, you need to work at remaining calm and evaluating the situation objectively as a business owner and not treat it as a personal rivalry with the angry customer.
So what do you need to evaluate? Well, first, you need to determine if the review is even legitimate. Once you read the review, put it into one of these categories:
- Unhappy Customers – This customer had a bad experience and wanted their voice to be heard.
- Fraudulent Reviewers – Internet trolls or competing business might be trying to sabotage you with negative reviews.
- Wrong Business – It’s pretty common for customers to review the wrong product or even the wrong business.
So how can you decide what kind of review it is? Time to check your records! If the customer’s name or situation matches a customer you’ve had, treat them like they’ve been wronged and you need to make it right. Arguing with a real customer will never end in your favor.
A rival business will often leave angry comments with a clear link or phone-number for their own business. Even if the review is fraudulent, you should always treat the alleged customer with respect. You’ll still need to respond like it was a real customer. But by noting the details that prove the review is a phony, you may be able to ask Google to remove it (more on this later in the post).
If someone is reviewing the wrong business, it’s as easy as noting that in your response, but you should also reach out to Google My Business and ask them to review the post. Future customers won’t hold it against you if they see a review for your business talk about the cold cuts at Vinnie’s Delicatessen and a response that says “Sorry about that order ma’am – but this is Victor’s Repair Shop. We don’t sell meat, but we’d be happy to help if you need new tires!”
Respond quickly and turn that bad review into a positive customer interaction.
Your response to a bad review will determine if it’s a black eye or a tiny bump. The kind of review that’s left changes your options for responding.
Time is of the essence in responding.
Ignoring the bad review makes it look like you don’t care and waiting too long says you don’t take customer’s experience seriously. Neither is a reputation you want for your company. However, acting aggressively or with a poorly planned response can create a public record that’s worse than the review itself.
A strong response will follow three important guidelines:
- Express that you are sorry for their bad experience
- Offer the customer a solution to their problem
- Explain how your business will prevent this problem from happening again.
Following these guidelines will show that your business is serious about customer satisfaction and has an active strategy to resolve customer’s issues. There should be a careful balance between not challenging the customer and not admitting fault as a business.
Dealing with a fake review is a little more complicated than addressing a customer’s bad experience. Above all, your response can never be aggressive, confrontational, or threatening
This handy cheat sheet has the pitfalls to avoid when dealing with fake reviews:
Your well-crafted and timely response will show that you care about your customers, and what started as a customer’s frustration at their bad experiences can be turned into a promotion for your company. A satisfied customer will often volunteer to update their review once you’ve satisfied them. And even if they let it stand, your genuine response will signal to customers that they can trust you to make things right if they have any problems.
The official twitter account @GoogleMyBiz is a resource to reach out to if you are having trouble navigating the system.
Setting up Google My Business and using it to craft your manage presence is one of your strongest tools available when dealing with negative reviews.
Flag and Dispute any fake Google Reviews.
Google has some pretty specific guidelines for what’s appropriate in customer reviews. You can read the rules in full if you want, but here’s the restricted content you should know about:
- Spam, like the same comment dozens of times or the same review posted to multiple businesses.
- Threats, harassment, or hate speech
- Deceptive reviews from rival businesses
- Off-topic reviews not related to your business.
If a Google review violates any of these policies, there is an easy system to report it.
Dispute a bad review with two easy steps:
- Log into your Google My Business account
- Highlight the fraudulent review and click the flag icon to report
It’s really as simple as that! After you’ve flagged an inappropriate review and left a professional response, Google will decide if it breaks their terms of service and should be removed.
Make a change so you don’t end up going through all this trouble again.
A single bad review might be a fluke or a malcontent customer. But if multiple customers are having the same problem and bad reviews are piling up, there is probably a genuine issue that needs to be resolved.
After you’ve resolved the customer complaint, it’s easy to sit back and call it a day. The bad review has been addressed, and your business is tacking for smoother waters. But be warned -complacency is a trap! You need to follow through and address what caused the bad review in the first place. This can be the hardest part. It’s tough enough to admit you made a mistake, but it’s even harder to admit you might have a systematic problem.
They say the best defense is a good offense, and the best way to address bad reviews is to operate in a way that doesn’t aggravate customers in the first place. Don’t wait for bad reviews to pile up. Treat the bad review as a warning, and use it to improve your business. Once customers are satisfied, they good reviews will start piling up, and the few bad eggs will be buried in a sea of praise. A wall of positive reviews is the best way to counter your detractors.