A notification pops into your email that someone has left you a review on Google.  Your heart soars, imagining the praise. You smile knowing you’ve satisfied yet another client.  As a small business owner, you know how crucial reviews are and you work hard to get them.

But wait?  What?  They’ve left a negative Google review and only given you 1 star!

Your heart sinks.

You frantically open the email and scan the review.

How dare they say that!

You start writing a sarky response.  You’ll tell them what YOU think of their review.

But, hold it right there because what you do now matters.

Prospective clients will be reading those reviews.  Online reviews play a significant role in the online world.  They impact our purchase decisions and the places we visit.  82% of consumers read online reviews about local businesses.

They are reading your reviews and your replies.  If you haven’t replied to your reviews, that should be on your task list for today!

But back to that 1-star review.  If you aren’t sure how to handle that negative Google review, then read on to find out more.

Related:  Google My Business Reviews – 7 tips to build trust

Can’t you just delete their review?

When you see that negative review, you might go frantically looking for the “delete” option.  But you’ll be sorely disappointed.    You can’t delete a Google review.

There is a caveat to this of course.  If the review violates Google’s policies, then you can flag it.   So, if someone is engaging in hate speech, inciting terrorism, eliciting dangerous, illegal or derogatory comments and other such dreadful things, then you can go ahead and click on the three little dots to report it.

But if the review is simply from a disgruntled client, then your only option is to manage it.

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How to respond to a negative Google review

Read the review a few times and consider what they are saying.  If in this instance you did, in fact, let the client down, then this is a good opportunity to take ownership of the mistake.  Even if you weren’t at fault, the rules still apply.

Acknowledge the complaint

I know it might be counterintuitive to thank someone for leaving you a negative Google review, but this is precisely what you want to do.  After all, they are bringing to your attention something that let the experience down.  It might be something you aren’t aware of.  If this same scenario is happening to other people, they might not be coming back and you won’t know why.  So, the reviewer might have just given you some crucial insight that can help you make your product or service even better.

Apologise with sincerity

Saying sorry can be difficult, but it’s wise to do so here.  Apologising with sincerity can go a long way.  Clients want to know you’re taking them seriously and that their opinion matters.  Phrases such as “I’m sorry if you felt that way” are insincere and make it the person’s issue for having the problem.  An insincere apology can be spotted a mile off and won’t give a good impression to prospective visitors reading your reviews.

Demonstrate that you will action change

Speak to your staff to get their take on what happened.  Or, if you’re a solopreneur and you didn’t deliver as promised, this is a good time to review processes to see why a mistake happened and how to avoid it in the future.

Of course, if you did all you could and the client is simply one of those people who complain no matter what you do, then there’s a lesson there too.  Maybe you should have said no to taking that client on in the first place.  Only you can make that decision.

Here’s an example of how you might reply:

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I sincerely apologise that you had a less than optimal experience with us.  I spoke to the staff members who were involved with your purchase and we have identified some gaps in our procedures.  We are now implementing changes to close those gaps.  I do hope you will give us a chance to make it right.  Please contact me directly at info@company.com to discuss further.  John

This reply shows sincerity, that you’ve listened and you are making changes to improve.  Not only that, you’re reaching out to make things right.  This could be some sort of compensation or discount on their next purchase.  That is your call to make.  But don’t mention an offer of compensation in your reply.  That opens the door for others to complain just to get compensation too.

Read: 5 SEO quick wins you can do in an hour

How to respond to a fake negative Google review

You can certainly flag a fake review to Google as this violates their guidelines.  It will normally be quite obvious that the review is fake.  Fake reviews are usually written poorly and they stand out like a sore thumb among the other reviews. They’re common, so don’t panic if you get one.

Here’s a sample of how you can respond if you are absolutely sure it’s a fake review:

We take these matters seriously.  However, we have absolutely no record of your name or account on our books.  We believe that this is a fake account created to purposely post 1-star reviews on home service providers in this area.  We have followed up with Google to have this fake review removed.

Then, let it go

Once you’ve dealt with the fake or real review, let it go.  One negative Google review won’t bring your business toppling down.  Just concentrate on delivering great service and don’t forget to proactively ask for reviews.