Making the stars align on Google reviews

Got a one-star review and freaking out? Read on for the hot tips on how to make that star a constellation prize.

Doctor Digital Says

Digital Basics

For small businesses, negative reviews on Google can be upsetting personally and professionally. Ignoring such reviews isn't an option, managing your customer interactions is important to showing future and current clients that you take your relationship with them seriously.

Consumers increasingly look to reviews as part of their online research and discovery about your brand and products. In this discovery phase, it’s the quantum of reviews that make up your profile, rather than a random one-star review. The good ones are as important as the not so good, as is incorporating getting all your customers in the habit of making accurate reviews of the experience of your business.

To help you get into your five star review era, here are some strategies to manage your Google reviews.

Why Google Reviews Matter

Managing your reputation on Google is an ongoing task. It's not just about responding to negative reviews; every review, positive or negative, deserves attention. Encourage feedback from all customers, as all reviews contribute to your local SEO rankings and provide valuable insights for potential customers. 2023 research statistics on consumer trends underline the significance of Google reviews revealing:

  • 98% of consumers read reviews for local services.
  • 87% of consumers use Google to assess local businesses.

However, since human brains have a negative bias, negative feedback tends to stand out before the positive. Responding to all the reviews you receive demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and more importantly helps contextualise negative feedback.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

Much of the fear around Google reviews spring from stories of fake campaigns and malicious negative takedowns. Putting these aside for a minute, not all negative reviews are fake. Some are genuine expressions of dissatisfaction from customers. It's crucial not to disregard these. Respond promptly on Google, then follow up with the unhappy customer via phone to address their concerns directly. If contact information is unavailable, provide yours and invite them to reach out for resolution. Adopting the most generous assumption for the motivation of the reviewer means that you can move out of defense into curiosity – they may reveal something to you about your business that is really valuable, or they may also recognise they were in their feelings and overreacted and can be mollified with a genuine response. Ultimately, by actioning the review, you show your brand values in action and that you are prepared to listen, be helpful, or humble, or heroic even in your response.

When responding to a genuine customer, follow these steps:

  • Thank the reviewer for their feedback.
  • Apologise for their unsatisfactory experience.
  • Provide context or explanation without sounding defensive.
  • Reiterate your commitment to high standards.
  • Offer to rectify the situation, encouraging direct communication for resolution.
  • Ideally, working with the customer to resolve their issues may prompt them to update their review, showcasing your responsiveness to potential customers.

Identifying and Reporting Fake Reviews

Fake reviews can be a thorn in your side, and potentially impact your business, particularly if the reviewer never actually engaged with you and your services. Google provides a feature to report fake reviews, although it can be tricky to navigate. To determine if a review is fake, consider:

  • Verification through CRM or point-of-sale software.
  • Record of contact with customer service.
  • Specific details provided.
  • Sudden influx of negative reviews.
  • Recommendations for competitors in the review.

If any or many of these factors are present, you can make a response that identifies that you have no record of the customer and how ardently you are looking to understand their issue when they never seem to have dealt with you - whilst pointing to all of the happy customers and their positive reviews. This can help people to see you remain civil while recognising it is a fake review.

Reporting fake reviews involves accessing your Google My Business account, finding your business, and using the Report Review feature, selecting reasons like Off topic or Conflict of interest. Alternatively, contacting the competitor directly to request removal or reporting them to relevant authorities or making a legal approach if they are defamatory are other avenues.

Challenges and responses to fake or defamatory reviews

Unfortunately, not all bad reviews are removable, especially if they don't clearly violate Google's guidelines. Responding professionally to such reviews is crucial to provide context for potential customers. Maintaining visibility and encouraging reviews from satisfied customers can help balance out negative feedback. So what if someone or somebot have gone hard on your business – what options do you have?

In Australia, the process of dealing with negative reviews on platforms like Google or social media can be complex when they move into reputational damage territory. Understanding the legalities and steps involved can help businesses navigate this terrain effectively.

If a review is deemed defamatory, fake, misleading, or deceptive, businesses generally have avenues to have it removed. Determining whether a review is defamatory involves assessing whether it damages the reputation of the business. Honest opinions about goods or services, even if negative, are usually not defamatory, unless they contain untrue statements. Some states now require proof of serious harm from a review post, raising the bar for actionable defamatory reviews. Acting swiftly is crucial as businesses must respond within twelve months of a review being posted. Seeking legal advice early is advisable, especially considering the seriousness of defamation claims.

Negative reviews motivated by factors other than genuine opinion, such as disgruntled ex-employees, may also be deemed defamatory. However, larger companies with ten or more employees cannot sue for defamation but may pursue other legal avenues such as injurious falsehood. Removing defamatory reviews often involves reporting them to the platform, which typically has policies prohibiting certain types of content. However, the success and timeframe of this process can be unpredictable. In such cases, sending a Concerns Notice through legal channels can be effective – seeking legal assistance for this process is advisable due to the legal requirements but be aware there is a cost as it will involve a lawyer.

A Concerns Notice formally identifies defamatory statements, specifies their location, and describes the harm caused. It requests actions such as removing the review, issuing an apology, or compensating for losses.

The bottom line?

Ultimately, one or even several negative reviews won't spell the end for your business. Responding to reviews, both positive and negative, and actively seeking feedback from customers can mitigate the impact of negative feedback. Positive reviews hold the power to overshadow negative ones, influencing potential customers and boosting your local SEO. Make sure you have the mechanism in your marketing funnel or sales loop to seek feedback and encourage customers to leave a review. This can be at point of sale, at follow-up from delivery, a little note tucked into their package, social feed reminders, incentives for future discounts, or even giveaways to incentivise.

Most satisfied customers remain satisfied quietly, and unsatisfied customers want the world to know their pain, so it is important for people who are happy to be reminded of how happy they are and to take action. Managing Google reviews effectively is essential for small businesses. By responding thoughtfully, addressing concerns, and fostering a culture of feedback, businesses can maintain their reputation and build brand loyalty and credibility in the digital realm.


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