Online reviews, especially Google reviews, are becoming more powerful every day. 

Positive reviews are a great way to attract more calls and visits to your website, but negative reviews can cripple the flow of business — especially for a small, locally-owned business. Keep reading to learn more about the impact that negative reviews can have on your business and how to handle a negative review if you get one.

If your company hasn’t received a negative review yet, it most likely will at some point. No matter how excellent your customer service is and how well your products are loved, you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

How much impact can negative reviews have on a business?

Recent stats show that  just 1 negative review can detour as much as 22% of local customers. The numbers grow quickly with 3 negative reviews causing up to 59% of customers to look elsewhere.  In another study, they discovered that 8 out of 10 online shoppers interviewed said negative reviews caused them to decide not to do business with a company

That’s big impact, and I think these numbers are even higher and growing rapidly. As a local, small business owner one cannot afford to ignore negative reviews.

Unfortunately, we recently got a bad review and it stunk. I want to share our experience with you, so that it can help you know what steps to take if you receive a negative review.

Our first-ever negative review. (The first one always hurts the worst.)

So, about a year ago we received a negative review on our Google listing from someone we had never heard of. That’s bad enough on its own, because Google reviews are especially impactful, but this was extra frustrating because this reviewer had never been a customer of ours and their 1-star review messed up our perfect 5-star average. That hurts.

So, how did we handle our first negative review?

First, I got on the phone with Google (not an easy task to accomplish.) and explained the situation. They assured me that they would investigate the bogus review and get back to me. To my surprise, the very next day, a polite young lady from Google called back to let me know that they were able to determine that the reviewer was not one of our customers and that they had removed the negative review. What? This was great news. I was thrilled.

Then, not long after that first negative review was erased, we got a second negative review from another person we have never does any business with. And, to make the situation even more fun, this review had an extra complication attached to it.

Just like the first time, I got on the phone with Google — and that’s when I realized that removing this review is not going to be as easy as it was the first time. Why? Because the reviewer left only 1-star, and no comment. Apparently, Google has a policy, regarding reviews that basically states, ‘if the reviewer only gives a star rating and does not leave a comment, we cannot remove the review“.

This made no sense to me at the time, and to be completely honest, still does not. But what could we do?

We have run into the problem of bad reviews multiple times in managing our clients’ accounts. Of course, the first question our clients usually asks is, “How can I get rid of that review”? Persuading Google to delete your negative review would be the quickest and easiest solution, (as if persuading Google to do anything has ever been quick and easy.) But as you’ve seen from my story above, this strategy will not always work.

Another side note about the power of reviews; If you have a business that relies on online customers then reviews are a critical component to your success. The latest stats say that 78% of online customers will read reviews before contacting you and that those reviews matter greatly.  (For more on this topic, read our recent post; 10 Reasons Why Google Reviews are So Important to a Local Business.)

The bottom line is that you cannot afford to ignore bad reviews.
You will lose business if you do.

So, what can you do if you get a negative review on Google?
At Market 248, we have found the following steps to be the most effective for our clients:

1. Reach out to the customer directly.

If you recognize the reviewer as a customer, don’t just ignore their negative review. It will not just go away and as I have already pointed out, negative reviews have a real impact on your bottom line.

Instead, I suggest that you respond quickly to their review in a kind way with an apology for their trouble, and invite them to connect with you to resolve the issue. Negative reviews are a public expression of dissatisfaction that a customer has with an experience or product from your business. And, there are times when you can fix it and make it right.

You might ask, “What if I have to give them a refund?” My stance is that fixing a negative review is almost always worth the cost. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but you have to ask yourself how much it will cost you if that review starts turning business away. Remember, negative reviews, just like positive reviews, stay in public view, having impact on a daily basis.
A lost sale cost you money every time it takes place.

That’s why I always advise my clients that if it can be fixed with a conversation, do it.

2. Get Google on the phone

If you do not recognize the reviewer as a customer, and if the reviewer did leave a comment, it’s worth your time to reach out to Google and try to get the review removed. This method has worked for us more than once and I think it’s certainly worth the phone call.

By the way, we find that Google support phone numbers change from time to time, and since I have no idea when you are reading this blog post, I suggest you do a search on Google for, google my business support phone number and try the phone numbers that show up in your search.

3. When all else fails, get focused and bury that negative review — once and for all.

Often, this point ends up being the solution for handling negative reviews. If the customer refuses to change their review (point 1) and if Google will not remove the review (point 2) then you must take action on your own. And, the most effective action you can take is to “push” the negative review so far down your list of reviews that the impact of that review will be greatly diminished. How do you do this? By loading up your account with legitimate, positive reviews.

That means you have to be very purposeful about adding reviews to your Google local listing. For most of us, it simply means that we remember to ask customers for a review on Google. Another effective method of getting new, positive reviews on to your Google listing is to send an email to happy customers. In that email, take time to sincerely thank them for being a customer and let them know how much that means to you. Then, let them know how much their Google reviews matter to your business and politely asked them, that if they are happy with their experience, to go over to Google and leave a review.

Then, provide the direct link. This is an important step. If you leave it up to them to go find your local listing on Google, that may be too much to ask and you won’t get great results. Take the obstacles out of the way and provide a link within your email.

We recently had a client, who is a psychiatrist in New York City. He received a scathing review on his Google listing and called in a bit of a panic. Since the reviewer was clearly a patient of his (of 10+ years.), and our client was convinced that the reviewer would not remove or change his review, we took the approach of burying it. How? My client and his receptionist got super-focused on gaining new Google reviews and before long the positive reviews started pouring in.

The first week there were three or four new reviews on his account, the second week there were four or five more. By the end of one month, just from being more intentional, his practice had added 19 glowing, positive reviews.  (While most people want to see lots of reviews on your account, very few people will need to read 20 or more before contacting you. If you add 10 or 20 positive reviews on top of the negative one, you will greatly reduce the impact of that negative review.

The bottom line is; reviews are super-powerful in today’s online shopping atmosphere and you just cannot afford to ignore them. ​The good news is; there is almost always something you can do about a negative review. It may cost you a little of your time, but I promise you — it’s well worth it.