How to Respond to and Remove Negative Online Reviews

Maintain your business' online reputation

When your phone lights up to notify you of a new review for your business, you are usually filled with immediate joy. You know reviews can make or break your business, and you’re glad to see that your review count is going up. But then, you click on the review and see that the customer left you a one-star rating. Your joy turns to dread as you wonder what went wrong.

What on Earth do you do now? How should you respond to this negative Google review? Your business’ reputation that you have worked so hard to create is now being challenged. What’s your next move?

The first thing you need to do when your business gets a negative review is to take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world. Bad reviews happen. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use when responding to negative reviews on Google, Yelp or Facebook.

How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

When you get a negative review (because everyone does at some point), don’t ignore it. It’s important to respond to both positive and negative reviews. It shows your customer base that you are interested in what they have to say, even if you don’t want to hear it.

Customers like to be heard. In some cases, you might even be able to turn a negative review into a positive one by simply having a conversation with your customers. Lots of companies have done it before, and you can, too.

After reading the negative review, don’t immediately type up a response. Take a few hours, but not more than three days. You need to respond in a timely manner if you are going to repair your reputation. You can properly craft a response with these 7 super simple tips for responding to negative online reviews.

1) Be Positive

how to properly respond to negative online reviews

When it comes to responding to reviews, opposites attract. You shouldn’t feed off the customer’s remarks by adding more negativity to the review. Avoid being condescending or rude. Instead, take a few breaths and trying to have a positive attitude.

Your goal should be to shift the mood from frustration and anger to compassion and understanding. You can set the tone for the rest of the conversation by responding in a genuine, positive manner.

2) Apologize

You know that you need to respond with a positive attitude, but the question is, how? You can — and should — start with apologizing. Apologize for the customer’s bad experience, whether it was slow service or a product or service that didn’t meet their expectations.

It’s better to apologize and accept that the customer had a poor experience than to try to combat them. Be humble in your response. Just because you may not agree with them or feel that they fabricated most of their review, it’s important to listen and acknowledge their feelings.

After you validate their negative feelings toward your business, you can start amending the customer’s relationship with your business. In doing this, other customers who read the review and your response will see that you care about your customers, not just the profit margins.

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3) Explain

Once you apologize, you can explain what went wrong. What happened to make the reviewer’s experience with your business so negative? This is not a time for you to provide excuses. No one wants to hear those. But, this is a time to stick up for your business and your reputation.

Perhaps some events occurred that were outside of your control, or maybe the customer was not clear with what they wanted. It’s ok to talk about what went wrong on your end to an extent. Do not at any point place the blame on the customer, though. Discuss the errors that took place so the customer understands the situation. Then, they might just be able to have a little compassion for you in return.

4) Promise

The apology and explanation can only go so far. A commitment to make changes is what seals the deal and builds trust with your audience. In your response, make a promise to take a further look into what went wrong. Then, promise to take steps that ensure those mistakes never happen again.

Once the customer who left the negative review sees that you are willing to take action, they will feel truly listened to. Plus, future and past customers who see this review will learn that you care about improving your product or service when errors arise.

5) Invite

This is an alternative step that can be used in appropriate situations. You can ask the disgruntled customer who left a negative online review to return to your business for a discounted or free service.

Invite them to use another product or service you sell, but be prepared to discount your offer. If the customer has a positive experience the second time, they might just update their review to shed a positive light on your business.

6) Take it Offline

If you want to show the reviewer that you really care, give them the chance to talk to someone on your end. Toward the end of your response, you should provide a phone number or email for them to contact. Make sure to include a specific name of who they will be talking to in order to resolve the situation.

This allows the customer to talk with an actual person about their problem. It makes them feel like their thoughts and opinions matter. When they can talk with a person offline, they are more likely to walk away with a positive feeling about your business.

Talking to the person privately allows you to have a back-and-forth discussion about their problems outside of the public view.

What to do when your business gets a negative online review

7) Thank them

In your last sentence, you should thank the customer for leaving the review. Tell them that you appreciate them taking the time to point out a problem with your service. In an effort to remain positive, talk about how you care about improving your services. Mention that their feedback allows you to make changes and improve.

No matter how much you may disagree with the customer, you need to remember that, in this situation, the customer has power. Listen to them and thank them for their review. Be genuine and maintain positivity throughout the message.

And, at the end of the day, you should be glad that they left you honest feedback. You can use their review to your advantage by improving your business and coming out on top.

What Not to Do When Responding to a Negative Review

When responding to a negative online review, always take the high road and be humble. Remember that this is a public forum. Your words carry a lot of weight, and not just with the person you are responding to. Anyone who reads your response will judge your business, too.

Never fuel the fire and bite back to the negative comments. When replying, you always need to stay professional.

These are some of the things that you should NEVER do when responding to negative online reviews.

  • Speak rudely to the customer
  • Be condescending
  • Be insincere
  • Get defensive

Now that you know how to properly respond to negative reviews, it’s also important to know that some negative reviews could be fake. In order to maintain a high star-rating, you need to know how to spot negative reviews and how to report them to Google.

Spotting Fake Google Reviews

Unfortunately, some of the reviews on Google are fake. Google is not always the best at catching these fake reviews, and neither are consumers. Fake reviews can be hard to spot, but there are some ways you can identify them. Once you find them, you can ask Google to have them removed.

Some simple ways to identify a fake Google review are:

  • The review is too short
  • The review is too long and has lots of technical details or goes off topic
  • The review has very poor spelling and grammar

Other ways to tell if a Google review is fake are:

No name

If the reviewer’s name does not appear on the review, chances are that the review is not genuine. The same is true if the reviewer’s name is not in your customer database, or if the customer is outside of the area you serve.

Reviewer has left a string of other negative reviews

If the reviewer has left a lot of negative reviews for businesses, this is a red flag. They could be misusing an account to harm the reputation of multiple businesses.

Mistaken your business for another

When customers are heated about their bad experience, they can be quick to jump on their computer and leave a negative review. Occasionally, in the customers haste of voicing their anger, they accidentally leave the review on the wrong company’s Google page.

If the reviewer is talking about services or products that you don’t offer, then you can report this false review to Google.

No explanation about the experience

If you receive a negative review, an easy way to decipher whether it is fake or not is to read their complaints. Disgruntled customers who don’t talk about their bad experience might be fake reviewers.

When a customer has had a bad experience, they will typically tell you everything about what went wrong. If they cannot offer an explanation for why they don’t like your business, you might have a fake Google review on your hands.

So what can you do when you see a fake Google review? If you believe the review is fake, then you need to take action to remove it. Here are two ways you can remove fake Google reviews.

Removing fake Google reviews

1) Report online

Flag the fake review for Google by clicking on the three dots in the top right corner of the review, then click “Flag As Inappropriate.” Another pop-up will appear. Click continue so you can be redirected to the “Report a Policy Violation” page. On this page, you will enter your email address, choose the violation type and click submit.

If you feel that this strategy is not successful, you can try this alternative way.

2) Contact Google directly

If Google has not taken down the fake review, then you can contact Google directly. Reach out to Google by phone, email or on the official Google Twitter account for Google My Business. Make sure that you are ready with the details as to why you believe that the review is fake. You’ll need to present your case when speaking to a Google team member.

Google reviews matter for businesses. Consumers look at them before making a purchase, and studies show that about 82% of consumers can be dissuaded from visiting your business because of a negative review.

Your online marketing strategy should include tactics for getting positive online reviews, as well as ways to respond to negative Google reviews. If you respond the right way, you can turn those reviews around and improve your business’ reputation.