How to Deal With Negative Online Reviews

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Your business has just received a scathing 1-star review on Google. The customer reports that they’ve been passed to multiple service representatives, and they just want to ask a simple follow-up question. When they finally get in touch with someone willing to help, they’re told they may need to pay an additional cost to get the job done right.

The negative review appears first on your Google listing like a bright red warning sign to future customers. What do you do?

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive from businesses is how to deal with negative reviews in situations just like this. Today, we take a look at how negative online reviews affect you, and how you can turn them into useful opportunities to improve your business and impress new customers.

Can’t We Just Remove Them?

Many business owners who’ve been impacted by negative reviews ask if they can simply have their negative reviews removed. The answer, typically, is no. 

Google, Facebook, and other review platforms have policies on the types of reviews that are allowed. For instance, Google prohibits reviews from people who have no firsthand experience with the business they review.

Recently, we helped one of our partners remove a bad review from a reviewer who claimed they knew someone who worked for the company. Since this reviewer even stated they had no firsthand experience with the business, we were able to have the review removed and restore our partner’s sterling reputation.

If you’ve been impacted by a negative review, read the review content policies for the platform where the review appears and appeal to have it removed if you are confident that it violates platform policy.

How Do Negative Online Reviews Affect Me?

A business’s review average appears prominently on their knowledge panel and in Google Maps. As one of the most salient features on a listing, the review average and the overall quantity of reviews have a direct impact on the way search engines rank your listing and how customers choose to interact with your business. 

Negative reviews not only look bad to users who are searching for the best possible business experience, but enough bad reviews will also cause search engines to place your business at the bottom of the pack.

We have worked with one business in particular who received so many negative reviews that a business accreditation organization actually wrote an extensive article about the complaints levied against them. Yet the business is so well-established and has been operating in the area for so many years that they still have a strong organic footprint among their industry competitors. The result is that their business, and their reviews, are highly visible online.

Repairing their reputation will be difficult, but it is entirely possible with the right approach. It begins with taking the reviews seriously, responding in a way that demonstrates a real concern to improve the business, and building a strong base of positive reviews moving forward.

What to Do When You Receive a Negative Review

Panic! Run to the nearest keyboard and dispute the claims of the reviewer! Tell them they aren’t your kind of customer anyway! (Please don’t actually do this.)

What’s important to remember about negative reviews is that your responses to them are as visible as the reviews themselves. You are responding to the negative review, and you are demonstrating to future customers that you care about their experience. 

If you are actively working internally to improve your customer service, you’ve recently implemented a new quality control process, or you have already taken action to remedy the customer’s complaint, say so! When new potential customers scan your reviews, they’ll be more impressed with your prompt response and action than they will be deterred by the review.

Google also allows users to sort a business’ reviews — prioritizing the newest reviews, the highest or lowest reviews, and the most relevant. Often, reviews that have been responded to by the business will top the list of “most relevant,” making your responses all the more meaningful to future customers doing their research.

How to Acquire New Reviews

A positive review rating average is a badge of trustworthiness to search engines and to users who find you online. When businesses are unhappy with their average and the resulting poor local search appearance, or they have more negative reviews than they are comfortable with, they often ask us how they can acquire new reviews.

Often the most reliable and most budget-friendly approach is simply to encourage your customers to provide reviews. If you meet with your customers at the point of sale, tell them you’d love to receive their feedback and on what platforms they can leave a review, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, or sites that may be particular to your vertical. Restaurant owners can encourage their waitstaff to encourage customers to leave a review of their dining experience. Sales reps can encourage reviews when they close a deal.

Businesses with a more substantial budget may prefer to automate the process with platforms like BirdEye, Podium, or Grade.us. These platforms allow businesses to send review invitations to customers’ mobile devices or email addresses. Then, you can respond to the reviews on a variety of platforms on a single dashboard. When used the right way, these tools can dramatically assist a business’s reputation-building efforts.

Review Gating

Review gating is the process of filtering out bad reviews before customers can leave them. Commonly, the review platforms mentioned above allow you to create a page or widget where your customers can leave their ratings. If the reviewer leaves a positive rating, you can choose to give them the opportunity to then leave their review on platforms like Google or Facebook. If the reviewer leaves a rating lower than you might like, you can set the automation not to present them the option to copy their review to a popular platform, preventing their negative reviews from arriving on your site.

The practice of review gating violates Google’s policy on user-contributed content, which includes reviews. The policy states that businesses may not “discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

Policies aside, gating reviews is generally considered poor practice. Real review wins come from allowing customers to let their voices be heard and responding with a sincere interest in improving their experience and your business.

Get More Reviews With BigPxl

More reviews mean more customer engagement and more opportunities to represent your business in the best way. For new businesses and businesses who could use a reputation tune-up, getting more reviews can make a world of difference.

For reliable strategies that play by the rules, let BigPxl help you out. If you’re already working with a review platform and need help optimizing the process, we can help. For tailor-made review strategies built from the ground up, we can do that too!

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