How To Respond To A Negative Google Review + Examples
Negative Google reviews can feel like a kick in the face, especially for business owners who work really hard trying to grow their companies. But life is messy, so when something inevitably goes wrong and frustrates one of your customers, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a negative Google review. When this happens, it’s crucial to muster your empathy, put on your investigative hat, and respond in a way that is compassionate and helpful.
Reviews have become a decisive part of people’s buying process. In one study, 91% of consumers between the ages of 18 to 34 seek out online reviews before purchasing a product or service.1 In another study, 89% of travellers said a thoughtful response to a negative review improved their impression of a business.2 People don’t just seek out customer reviews to help them make a purchase decision, they also assess a company’s response to bad reviews, because it tells them a lot about how they treat their customers.
So your responses are extremely important. They show people that you care about customer satisfaction, and will do your utmost to meet their expectations. In this article, we’ll explore how to respond to negative Google reviews in the best way possible, so that you can give an excellent impression of your company, genuinely help people with their problems, and ultimately, boost customer loyalty and revenue.
How to respond to a negative Google review
When responding to a negative Google review, your number one priority is making the person feel good about the interaction. This can be challenging because they’re already unhappy with your company, but by following the principles outlined below, you have a much better chance of turning them around. You also show other people that you truly care about your customers.
Every review that you respond to should be completely unique, as it shows people that you’ve taken the time to understand the person’s problem and responded to it accordingly, rather than having used a time-saving cookie cutter approach.
Call the customer to fix the issue
The best review response you can provide is one that says “thanks for our conversation today, we’re extremely happy that we could fix this issue for you.” So before you even think about responding to the review, if you have the customer’s phone number, and their issue is something that can be resolved, give them a call.
Respond quickly, but only when you’re calm
Google review responses are timestamped, so it’s important to address the issue quickly. It’s equally important to respond with a cool head, so if you have just discovered the review and are upset or angry about it, give yourself some time to calm down before responding.
As a rule, try to respond within 24 hours of the review being posted. Whoever set up your Google My Business profile should receive a notification from Google whenever a new review is posted, so if this isn’t you, consider adding your address to the notification list so that you can jump on it quickly.
Gather the facts
Get as many facts about the situation as possible, and note them down. Try to figure out what went wrong and why, so that you have the most accurate version of what actually happened. This will allow you to craft an informed and authentic response.
If you need to gather more information from the customer, and you have their phone number, give them a call. If you don’t have their phone number, you can ask them to call your office line so that you can help them resolve their issue. Remember: you are trying to genuinely help them resolve their issue, while demonstrating this to other people. You want to understand their expectations and how you failed to meet them.
In some cases, the person may not be a real customer, in which case you can respond with something like “Apologies, we cannot find your customer name in our system. We would like to help you resolve this issue—please call me personally on so that we can get this sorted, and talk about the best solution for you.”
Use the customer’s name
Our names are a key part of our identity, so we usually respond positively when we hear them. For this reason, always use the customer’s name when responding to negative Google reviews, as it immediately starts the response on a positive note, and feels much more personal. We also identified personalisation as an important customer service trend for 2023.
It can be hard thanking someone who has just criticised your business, but it’s extremely important. Try to remember that negative customer reviews can reveal genuine issues for you to attend to, which when fixed, will probably make your other customers happier. You can say something like “Thank you for taking the time to write your review, your feedback helps us to improve our customer service and business as a whole, so we truly appreciate it.”
Being dismissive is the worst possible thing you can do when responding to a customer review. We all want to feel validated (especially when we’re annoyed about something) and apologising is one of the best ways to do so.
You can apologise for the frustration, upset, or anger that the customer is feeling, as well as any errors that your company has made. This shows that you’re taking responsibility for your failures, and sincerely care about the customer’s negative experience. Even if they are in the wrong, you can still apologise for their frustration.
In your apology, it’s good to weave in your customer service values, to express that you’re trying to get things right. You might say something like “we sincerely apologise for your negative experience. The happiness of our customers is absolutely crucial to us, and we are sorry for dropping the ball in this instance.”
Don’t be argumentative
Google reviews are not the place for winning an argument, even when a customer is clearly in the wrong. This kind of response can come across as petty, and shows that your desire to be proven right is more important than the satisfaction of your paying customers.
If the customer’s facts are incorrect, and you don’t want other people to believe what they are saying, you can say something more agreeable like “we noticed some inconsistencies in your information, and we would love to clear these up with you over the phone. Your satisfaction is extremely important to us, and we want to be absolutely clear of the facts so that we can provide the best possible solution for you.”
Summarise the issue
Providing a summary of the customer’s issue is a great way to show that you’ve read their problem thoroughly and clearly understood it. This not only makes the customer feel validated, but shows them that you’ve taken the time to understand their issue, and have a desire to fix it. Your company’s empathy is also demonstrated to anyone who reads this kind of response.
Provide a solution
If possible, try your hardest to provide a satisfactory solution for the customer. This could be a follow up phone call, a refund, an exchange, a free product or voucher, or anything that might close or progress the issue in a positive way. If this isn’t possible, try to teach them how to avoid the same issue next time. You just need to provide something, because it shows that you care about resolving the issue.
Follow them up
If the problem was brought to a happy resolution, personally follow up with the customer a couple of weeks later. You can ask how they’re doing, and whether you can help them with anything else. This phone call or email shows the customer that you’re thinking of them, and have taken time out of your day to show it. It can be a powerful way to create loyal customers.
How to respond to a negative Google review—examples
This customer is upset about a long wait for his coffee, which was caused by a problem with the machine. The staff member who responded to the review used “deeply apologised” to the customer, reiterated their issue to show they were listening, and then explained how much they value their customers and want them to be heard. They then suggested that improvements were going to be made, and thanked them for their helpful review.
The only thing this response is missing is a genuine solution to the problem. They could have offered a free coffee (and maybe a snack) as an apology, which would have been a nice touch.
This review response is a good example of showing everyone that the issue was successfully solved. As mentioned above, if you have the customer’s contact information, it’s always a good idea to resolve the issue before posting the review, as this is the best type of response.
In the review, the staff member also apologises for the customer’s disappointment, and addresses some of their concerns without being argumentative or accusatory. They then affirm the importance of resolving their customer’s issues, because their satisfaction is important to them. This is a fantastic response likely to impress anyone who reads it.
If you can’t find the person’s name in your system, saying so is a perfectly good way to respond, because it tells the world that their review may not be genuine. The staff member also re-iterates their company’s desire to improve, and asks them to give the company a call to clarify further. A solid response for this situation.
Algester Medical Centre
This customer is claiming that the medical centre is refusing to see patients with fever, which isn’t true. The staff member thanks them for their customer feedback, explains the COVID safety measures that are in place for high risk patients, and apologises for the inconvenience that has been caused. They then tell them that their feedback is important to them because it helps to improve their services. This is a stellar Google review response.
Urban Winery Sydney
This lack of communication from this company resulted in the customer being turned away from their winery. The staff member thanks the person for their feedback, re-iterates their mistake, and apologises for it. They then show their commitment to customer service by inviting the customer back “to make things right,” which suggests they are going to be compensated for their troubles. They then provide their direct contact information to arrange this.
Brisbane kebab shop
Finally, here’s an extreme example of how not to respond to a negative Google review. The owner “Big Puppa” is clearly unhinged. He demands that the customer call the shop to resolve the issue next time, calls them a coward, and then insinuates that he’ll reward them with sex if they return. Mildly amusing, but also creepy as hell.
This owner’s review responses quickly became a meme on Reddit, whose community then flooded them with 1-star reviews, causing their average score to plummet. This shows the damage that can be done by extremely poor responses to Google reviews.
Can you remove negative Google reviews?
Unfortunately, you can’t manually remove negative Google reviews from your business profile. However, if the review breaks any of Google’s review policies, you can flag it as “inappropriate,” after which you can report a “policy violation” with Google which can result in the review being removed. You can find instructions on how to do this on this Google support page.
If you report a review that doesn’t break any of Google’s policies, or because you just don’t like what is being said, it’s highly unlikely that Google will look into the issue. If you need more help, contact one of our SEO experts and we would be happy to advise you know how to deal with a negative Google review.
If you’d like to find out how to automate your reviews from customers, check out our article on how to Get More 5-Star Reviews