After receiving a bad Google review, Hayley Pells assesses the fallout and the best ways to react to such a situation.
As you might expect, I was initially extremely upset to receive a one-star review on Google, and it prompted me to understand what I could do as a business owner in an unsavoury situation. What I learnt is that a one-star review can actually be harnessed, and, ultimately, be a good source of improvement for your business if handled correctly.
Running a small business in this digital world of ours can be problematic. A workshop that doesn’t engage digitally is likely to have motorists that do, and they are sharing information about their experience.
Historically, bad reviews could be seen as a real blow to a business and were feared. Advice on how to correctly deal with them circulated and it is difficult to disagree with the generalised strategies on offer. Usually, these look something like the following: apologise, take it offline, make good. This works when there is a level playing field, but this does not necessarily take into account foul play.
Awareness of the various review platforms should enable a swift response – taking ownership of the listings available is mostly free. The platforms need accuracy in order to be competitive with their peers and will exchange your fact check for a free listing in most circumstances. It is important to be aware that some platforms will upsell for extra services; some of these include the ability to remove reviews that you don’t want associated with your business. I have my doubts about these services and have not employed them, but I can see how they would be suitable for different circumstances.
Once ownership of the listings has been established, any reviews left are usually brought to your attention by email, with the option of leaving a response to the review becoming the standard method of engagement.
It is important to respond warmly to good reviews in order to correctly market any unfair ones you receive in the future.
Bad review best practice
If a bad review presents itself, the first thing to establish is why it has happened and whether the reviewer is justified? If the reviewer genuinely had a bad experience, it is important to take ownership of what happened, respond politely, and offer to take the conversation offline. Privately making good the offence is the textbook method of dealing with this situation. But what happens if the review is unjustified? Keep cool, and remember the following points:
- A bad review does not mean that a business is bad
- It is impossible to please everyone, in fact, having a completely unstained slew of reviews can be cause for suspicion!
- A polite, yet firm response that covers the key points of the original exchange can show both sides of the story, allowing a reader to make their own judgement on what happened
- A review is simply that, the poster cannot reply to a reply. It is not a public conversation, so make a reply count!
- Having plenty of good reviews dilutes the potency of a bad one
The review revolution
When purchasing anything online, product or service, many consumers will read reviews and will not be put off by the odd bad one. In fact, a bad review can add authenticity to the whole string of reviews on the platform. Removed reviews lead to a spotless online reputation, which consumers become cynical of. Can any business exist for a sustained period and please every person, every time? Showing that there is nothing to hide can go a long way to showcasing the honesty of an organisation. It shows users that the good reviews are genuine and can be trusted.
Quite often, a bad review can be the result of expectations not being met. It might seem strange, but this can actually help a purchasing decision. Responding to a bad review is an opportunity to show what was offered, and the potential for a new customer to make a decision based on whether the offering meets their requirements.
Confidence is key
Engaging with a bad review shows confidence in the business and brand. Dealing honestly, fairly and politely advertises belief and sincerity. If writing is not a strong point, draft a response and get it checked for spelling mistakes and grammar. There are a number of organisations offering a paid membership, allowing access to services that can assist with this.
There are also a large number of digital peer-to-peer support groups that can be accessed free of charge and give a view on the specifics of the situation.
Bad reviews can also create a lot of traffic, this helps with the search engine optimisation of a business. Search engines only recognise traffic, and a business with high levels of traffic will appear higher up the search page than one with low traffic.
The last thing to ask is: Was the review completely unjustified? Was there any way it could have been avoided, or the organisation could be improved?
This is an opportunity to develop and get ahead of competitors if the experience can offer insight into what makes those engaging with the business happy, and for those people to potentially share a good review in the future.
Working through the process did improve my business as a whole, and when the next one happens, I feel better prepared! You can read my reviews (good and bad) here.