While the first phase of Google review traffic success is getting them, taking your Google review strategy to the next level is most certainly responding to Google reviews. Setting and managing buyers’ expectations is tough when you control little about the platform on which such opinions rest. This is why we discussed our strategy for getting (mostly good) Google reviews. So, if you haven’t read about this yet, I suggest you read that first and then continue on here to learn how effectively responding to Google reviews can be profitable (and mostly painless) for Small Business.
Responding to Google Reviews — The Good
The best responses to Google reviews for most Small Business owners are the good ones (three stars or more, in my book). I’m not going to lie; they’re nice to receive, look at, and bask in all your Small Business greatness and glory. The tactic of primary importance here is that you show appreciation. While most business owners don’t see it this way, you add value when you thank reviewers for leaving a good Google review. If you didn’t prompt them to leave the review, these are the people you should thank publicly. Then, move on. Don’t offer a discount. Don’t lavish them with praise. Simply thank them for their kind gesture, and wish them well.
And, if you start to get hundreds of good Google reviews per week, thank every 100th and move on. These reviews are seen by everyone and not everyone at that volume needs a thank-you.
Responding to Google Reviews — The Bad
Now comes the most challenging of all responding to Google reviews—the bad ones (of two stars or less). Why are these the most challenging? Business owners avoid facing reality, asking unhappy customers what made their experience bad, and doing the hard work to fix it.
Good business owners will overcome these challenges. And, I’m here to confess that sometimes these challenges are gnarly. Some, you may have to cut your losses and not fix. But, here are my thoughts about how to deal with responding to Google reviews gone bad.
Publicly acknowledge the reviewer with an apology that they had a poor experience with your company. This isn’t a time to be defensive, since you’re apologizing that their opinion of you is bad, not culpability for first degree murder. Your task is to review the text of what the reviewer wrote to see if you have sufficient information to understand why a reasonable consumer would feel this way, and if you should make it right. When you determine it legitimate, let the reviewer know that you’d like to make it right.
If, on the other hand, the reviewer didn’t provide enough details, in the reply to him or her ask them to reach out to you (perhaps via that same dedicated customer service email address we discussed in “Getting Mostly Good Google Reviews”). Once offline, turn that frown upside down! Within law and reason, help that unhappy customer become a raving fan. Once you’ve done so, ask them to re-review your business on Google. If you’ve done well, in my experience with my clients’ businesses, no reasonable customer won’t edit their Google review to four or five stars.
Handling bad Google reviews is challenging because it takes facing that you have a customer service problem, may have to correct your staff, or realize that there’s some major defect in your operations, product manufacturing, or otherwise. But, if you learn this and fix it, your business is better for it and more resilient through economic downturns. I consider bad reviews a proper service to Small Business owners everywhere.
Responding to Google Reviews — The Ugly
Lastly is actually one of the easiest Google reviews to manage, because they require very little effort. It’s one that probably frightens you. The ugly Google reviews are those that are always one-star and long, sometimes cogent and sometimes rambling prose about how you wronged them.
They hate your business. They’ll never do business there again. You suck. Your staff sucks. Your product or service sucks. And, your logo sucks, too! Hate spews from every orifice of these ugly reviews. There are many exclamation points, question marks, and ellipses.
And, you cringe. You’re a normal, decent human being. And, who wouldn’t cringe at that?
So, what’s a business owner to do? Nothing.
Yes, you heard me right. Absolutely nothing. Ignore that garbage and move on. This is known as “flaring” and it’s similar to if a child has a meltdown on their mother or father in a shopping mall. It gives you pause, and then you realize it’s a child throwing a temper tantrum so you continue on your merry way. Flaring doesn’t deserve your energy, because these are not happy people. And, they won’t ever be happy customers. And, everyone around your business will recognize flaring when they see it.
The only time someone like this should be responded to, is at the request of your legal counsel. If they have stated your business has committed a crime or extraordinary wrongdoing, they’re harassing you or your staff, or posting this not once but everyone they can find a spot to do so on the Web, I’d communicate this to your legal counsel in order to determine the best course of business and legal action.
Responding to Google reviews can seem daunting at first. But, after you know this rubric for how to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly, you start to be able to plow through Google reviews.
Good reviews get simple, plain gratitude. Bad reviews get attention on the unhappy customer and on your operations, product or service to improve for the future. And, ugly reviews get ignored.
None of these are easy, and some of this is downright tedious. But, after starting to manage Google reviews well, my clients tend to see more and better Google reviews from their proper handling. And, I hope you do, too!