Dealing with Negative Reviews of Your Business

It happens to just about every company at some point. Someone leaves a negative or 1-star review online, bringing your total rating down a few notches. Or worse, that 1-star rating might be your only rating! Whether the negative review was left by an unhappy customer, a disgruntled employee, or a competing company, unless you have a lot of excellent reviews to offset that bad one, it's going to hurt your business.

Negative Reviews

Do a Google search for your company name. Look through all the search results on Page 1, 2 and 3, and see if there are any that have stars next to them. Many online listings sites allow consumers to leave reviews for companies, but only a few show your average star rating in Google search results. Google Places is, of course, the most important, as it's the most popular, and your overall star rating with Google Places can affect your website and Google Places ranking. Other websites that show your average star rating in Google search results are Facebook, Houzz, Thumbtack, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, and Superpages. Out of these, the most popular sites for people to leave reviews on are Google Places, Facebook, and Yelp. There are plenty of other sites that allow reviews and ratings, but these are the most important ones.

So what do you do if you get a negative review? Remember that you cannot remove reviews. Obviously if companies could do that, it would defeat the purpose of allowing customers to leave honest reviews at all! But here's what you can do instead:

  1. Try to determine if the person who left the review is indeed an unhappy customer. If so, contact that person and ask them what you can do to resolve their issue. No matter how nasty their comment was, be courteous, professional, and apologetic. Perhaps it was a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication. If there's something you can do to rectify the situation and it's not a big deal to do so, do it. Of course, ask them to please remove their negative review after you've taken care of the problem. There's still no guarantee they will do that, but as a business owner you'll know at least you tried.

  2. If you don't know who the person is who left the review, or they are a customer and you tried to contact them or fix the problem, on most websites you can leave a reply to their negative review. The most important thing to remember is to be professional and factual in your reply. No matter how nasty the review is, name-calling or being argumentative will make you look petty and unprofessional, and that's not the image you want your company to project to potential customers.
  3. Here's a negative review that was left for one of my roofing contractor clients:
    "Charged more than the original quote and did sloppy work and nails everywhere. Don't ever hire this company their the worse."
    (I've included original misspellings and grammatical errors.)

    My client checked in his records and could find no information about this person (and of course the name he left on the review might have been fake). My client was very angry and said he was going to "tell that guy off". I told him to let me reply to the review instead, and here was my reply:

    "We cannot find a customer in our records with this name. If there was a problem with our pricing or quality of work for this job, we sincerely apologize and ask that you contact our office as soon as possible so that we can try to rectify this issue."

    When the company replies to a review, usually the person who left the review will get an email notification about the reply. My client never did hear back from that "customer".

    Now here's another negative review left for a different client:

    "They suck. Period."

    My client's reply:

    "well you suck to you piece of crap go get a life you looser"
    (Again, I've included original misspellings and grammatical errors.)

    Now, which company would you be willing to still do business with despite the negative review?

  4. You may be able to dispute the review, as most sites allow you to do this. If the review includes threats of violence, inappropriate content such as cursing or pornographic content, advertising or spam, or comments related to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, there's a good chance that the website will remove the review (and of course the star rating that goes along with it). Even if the review does not include this content, if you do some research you might find that the person who left the review left negative reviews with a bunch of random companies all over the country in one night (just trying to cause trouble), or you may find he/she left negative reviews with other companies in his/her industry, yet left a glowing positive review with one particular company in the same industry (meaning he or she is probably affiliated with that company and leaving negative reviews with the competition). In those cases, the website might remove the negative review.

    If the review you want to dispute or report is on your company Facebook page, and you're an administrator of the page, you can report the review. And allows anyone to "flag" a review, even if you don't have login access to your listing.

  5. On Facebook, as with any other site, you cannot remove a review (except to report it), but Facebook allows you to hide ALL reviews on your company page. Unfortunately this will hide your good reviews too. But hiding all reviews might be a good idea if you have a lot of negative reviews or a low average number of star ratings. If you do have a lot of negative reviews though, obviously it makes sense to investigate all complaints and find out where your company may be failing. Simply hiding reviews won't help your company if your employees are performing shoddy work or your receptionist is being rude on the phone. Poor customer service or quality of work will eventually bring your company down whether you have negative online reviews or not.

So what can you do to avoid getting negative reviews? Other than closing up your business, nothing! Obviously provide the best customer service and quality of work possible so that your customers are happy. But you can't make everyone happy, and you can't avoid troublemakers or disgruntled ex-employees or competitors leaving negative reviews for your company. And obviously removing all of your online listings doesn't make sense, because you need an online presence to get customers. So besides providing exceptional service, the best thing you can do is ask happy customers to leave reviews for you on the important sites such as Facebook, Google Places, etc. The more 5-star reviews you get, the less that 1-star review is going to hurt your overall star ranking. If you have no reviews on a site, and someone leaves a 1-star review, your overall star ranking is 1. But if you have four 5-star reviews on that site, and someone leaves a 1-star review, the site will average 5, 5, 5, 5, and 1, so your overall star ranking will be 4.2. Plus, the more positive reviews you have, the less people will care about one or two negative reviews.

But what if you only have a couple of reviews AND they're negative? You need to get that star ranking up by having happy customers leave 5-star reviews, but it's going to take time. If your company gets a bunch of 5-star reviews in a short period of time, such as a matter of days or even weeks, the listing site might end up removing all of those good reviews because it will look suspicious. A good rule of thumb is to have customers leave one positive review every 2 weeks or more. The farther apart the reviews are, the more likely they will look legitimate to the listing site (and people who are reading them). The last thing you want is for prospective customers to think you're making up reviews or having friends leave them.

So, instead of scrambling to get good reviews after someone has left you a negative review, start getting those positive reviews posted NOW, to offset any negative reviews you might get in the future.

Learn about Company Reviews and Testimonials in general, why they're so important, how to get them, and where to show them, HERE.

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