Nobody’s Perfect: Handling Negative, Fake, and Accidental Google Reviews
Google Reviews are the gold standard of online reviews and everyone wants as many 5-star reviews as possible. But sometimes you find yourself having to manage a bad one that's come your way due to a poor experience or worse: a fake review or one left by mistake.
Handling Negative Reviews
Sometimes mistakes happen or expectations aren’t or can’t be met which results in a poor review. The best perspective to have is to put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer who is reading your reviews. What sort of response would you want to see from a company that received a bad review? What resolution would you like to see that wouldn’t affect your willingness to do business with you? This can help guide how you manage reviews in a public space.
Do not ignore negative reviews. Review sites like Google are public and leaving negative reviews unanswered can send the wrong message about your business to prospects. Our advice is to first research your customer’s experience with your business before responding, so you know what may have gone wrong. Then proactively address the negative review by replying with a short non-argumentative reply and offer to take the discussion offline where it can be resolved in private. Acknowledge the customer's concern in your reply, express your understanding, and let the customer know you will be contacting them directly via phone or email to personally address their issue. Always be positive, constructive, understanding, and professional. Do not get caught in the trap of engaging in a battle between you and your customer in a public place.
How you respond will help shape your perception by customers, and potentially solve the issue at hand. What if you don’t have your customer’s contact information or they won’t take it offline, where it can be solved in private? Here are some additional tips Google suggests for How to Respond to Negative Reviews.
- Respond in a timely manner. Customers will appreciate a prompt response.
- Stay professional and courteous. Never lash out - avoid taking the review personally.
- Be honest about mistakes made, and steps you’ve taken (or will take) to remedy the situation.
- Apologize when appropriate, but don’t take responsibility for things that were not your fault. Show compassion and empathy for the customer.
- Show that you’re authentic and genuine. Sign off with your name or initials to show you’re taking the matter seriously and that a real person is listening.
The Case of the Angry Hotelier
Recently, the owner of Hotel Widgets USA (name obfuscated for reasons that will become obvious) had a great policy of making sure their customer’s stay was satisfactory during the check-out process. They performed this task with a customer during checkout in case they needed to address any issues they didn’t know about. Once the customer left, they discovered a bad review on Google from another customer. This customer had not gone through a face-to-face checkout process, and had left their room keys at a seemingly abandoned service desk.
Confusing the second customer for the first, who said everything was fine, the owner reached out via text and threatened to keep the room deposit unless the review was taken down. The second customer, as you would expect, left a new, poor review based on this experience. Once the owner had been corrected that the second customer wasn’t the first one, he/she dug in and resorted to name-calling. The second customer then shared the text conversation on social media, resulting in the owner demanding the social media post be removed or they would go to the police.
We can count on one finger the number of things he/she did right. The owner correctly tried to resolve the issue in private but then what followed was a chain of poor decisions. He/she then offered an unreasonable solution, by threatening to keep a deposit, and continued to make matters worse by taking the situation personally and resorting to additional threats.
Consider the alternative, if the owner had been polite, and genuinely sought a resolution to everyone’s satisfaction, the conversation never would have been posted on social media, and contacting the second customer is the kind of mistake they might be laughing about today.
Handling Fake Reviews
But what about poor reviews left by people who have never been a customer? It’s possible a review was left for you by accident or maliciously. Maybe a customer of another business mistook your Google review link for the other business, or worse, someone is intentionally trying to sink your 5-star ratings.
Remember the owner of Hotel Widgets USA in the first section? There’s more. When the conversation was posted on social media, Hotel Widgets USA got a swarm of fake reviews from people who sympathized with the customer’s experience. The name of the business was shared, and people took it as an opportunity to review bomb the hotel. This may have allowed a certain set of people to feel an online version of justice, as people take sides against the owner. But, at the end of the day, the reviews are not legitimate, and should be taken down. Given enough time, Google will eventually detect the reviews are false and remove them, but that doesn’t do the owner or potential future customers any good. The owner should have real feedback on which to act (hopefully), and future customers of the hotel should have real reviews to inform their decision on where to stay.
If you receive accidental, fake, or malicious reviews, contact Google to begin the process to have them removed. Once you’ve done your part, the issue you then face is waiting for Google to get around to removing those very public reviews. We have some suggestions that may expedite the process.
Visit the Google support page explaining How to remove reviews from your Business Profile on Google. And visit the support page that outlines Google content policies.
Here's what we suggest:
- Visit the above pages and review them completely before taking stated action
- Take note which reviews violate which policies.
- When making the request to Google to remove any fake reviews, cite the Google policy violations of each fake review
- Lastly, be patient. It could take a while (weeks to months) for Google to remove it. In the meantime, keep doing a great job creating happy customers who'll post great reviews to minimize that one fake review.
Remember, there’s a person on the other end of your request, and if you pinpoint the exact violation for them and they agree, you will have done their research for them. Hopefully the review is removed quickly.
Correcting a Google Review Mistake
Maybe you received a bad review and you followed up with your customer only to discover they’re beside themselves because they didn’t mean to leave a poor review at all. They thought they clicked 5-stars.
As with all online third-party reviews, they are posted under your customer’s credentials on services outside of your control. Unfortunately, this means only your customer can correct the error. We have a couple of methods to help your customer fix their review.
The first is to provide your review link found in LoyaltyLoop which takes them to Google’s review edit window so they can rewrite and re-star their review. Here's how to find this. Go to the Settings area in LoyaltyLoop, select a location (if necessary) and then click on Review Sites in the Reviews area. Click on the edit button of your Google settings where you’ll find the link to send to your customer in the area labeled Your Review Page.
When they click on that, they’ll be presented with their previous star rating and comments so they can update what they wrote.
1. Go to your Review Sites
2. Click Edit next to Google review setting
3. Copy entire URL
4. Provide URL to customer to edit their review
Alternatively, they can re-do their review by finding your Google My Business information via a Google search. Ask your customer to do a Google search for your company, and on the sidebar where they would normally leave a review, they will find a button that reads, “Edit your review”. They can then change their review and star rating by clicking there.
5 Best Practices for Lead Follow-up
How Are Your Leads?
Photo by Angèle Kamp on Unsplash
When your customers indicate on your LoyaltyLoop Promoter survey the other products or services they’re interested in, they are displayed on your Opportunities page. Following up on your leads should be a routine part of your experience with your customer feedback to ensure you’re helping those customers buy more from you before they go elsewhere. Critical to lead follow-up is ensuring that your leads are good.
When you follow up on your leads on the Opportunities page, do you find you have customers who aren’t ready to make purchase decisions? Or perhaps, they check products or services they’ve already purchased?
If you haven’t looked at your product awareness question in a while, go to your Settings page and look at your Survey Preview. The default "other products" question typically asks if the customer has a need for any other services, but does not specify a time frame or a call to action. If you find your customers misunderstand this wording, we can add, “in the next few months”, or any similar wording you prefer.
But, what if you find your customers are selecting products they already purchase from you? We recommend trying alternative wording for the entire question which has proven popular: "Which services would you like to learn more about?” This encourages your customers against clicking items they already purchase; items they should already be familiar with. This new wording implies they will be contacted in some fashion with details on what they select.
You may want to keep an eye on the popularity of your listed products. LoyaltyLoop makes this easy if you go to Feedback, and then click on the “by Question” tab. If you scroll down, you’ll find a listing of your products and the frequency in which they’re clicked for the default date range of 12 months to date (of course, you can change this date range using the Date Picker). Regularly review this chart, adjusting the date range as necessary, to see if items are being requested at a frequency you expect and that it matches your marketing, or if your marketing plan needs to be updated.
LoyaltyLoop - Feedback By Question - "Other Services Question" (Promoter Plan subscribers)
If you prefer, you can click on the Chart Selector and view the popularity of your products and services over time. By viewing all the items customers have expressed interest in, on a time series, helps to identify seasonality and shifts in customer interest. This too can help inform your marketing decisions.
Also, while you’re looking at your Survey Preview, this is a great opportunity to update the products and services listed. Has your product listing changed; are there any items we should add, remove, or change for you? Consider if you would like to highlight new products by floating them to the top of the list, as well. To make any of these changes, please contact us at Support@LoyaltyLoop.com or use the Contact Support tool in the Help section of LoyaltyLoop.
T-Minus One Month and Counting – Time to Start Using Launch Pad
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash
Four months ago, we announced two new ways to help you get your contact data into LoyaltyLoop, Launch Pad and your unique Launch File Email Address. We are sunsetting our previous email method - sending data to email@example.com - on June 30, 2022. The replacement methods are detailed below:
1. Launch Pad
Your Launch Pad is where you can stage your to-be-surveyed contacts, and where they'll reside until the survey is actually launched (i.e., sent to your customers). The primary function of the Launch Pad is where you can now easily and securely upload your survey launch data inside LoyaltyLoop. Here's the complete feature release explaining the Launch Pad.
2. Launch File Email Address
Instead of sending your launch files to us via the soon-to-be deprecated firstname.lastname@example.org email address, you now have your own unique Launch File Email Address. When you send data TO your Launch File Email Address, LoyaltyLoop can automatically associate your launch data with your account. Read the full explanation of your Launch File Email Address.
The Importance of Google Reviews: Part 9
Managing Your Google Reviews
Your Google reviews are unique to your business, and they help tell your company’s story. They are a demonstration of your customers feelings and opinions toward the business and represent the relationship between you and your customers. As a business owner, you should be thinking “My Google reviews are a direct reflection of my business”. Ask yourself, is that reflection a positive one, a negative one, or somewhere in between?
The importance of managing your Google reviews is being able to provide the social proof that your business is one from which your customers want to buy. A solid reputation of positive reviews on Google gives customers the confidence to do business with you based on how you’ve been able to service and satisfy the needs of your previous customers. Think of it in terms of a warm lead vs a cold lead. The cold lead has nothing to go off and nothing to judge you by, whereas the customer who has seen your positive reviews and solid Google My Business rating has now been converted to a warm lead.
Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash
The other reason online review monitoring is so important has to do with your company’s approach to managing negative online reviews. Even if you do receive a negative review, customers will see how your business handled that complaint. Maintaining a calm, apologetic, and listening approach demonstrates your ability to receive criticism and handle things professionally and appropriately. This can help to shape your business reputation and can even further earn the trust of potential customers.
The Importance of Google Reviews: Part 10
Why You Shouldn't Buy Online Reviews
Transparency is paramount in the business world and your reputation is built on trust. Some business owners find it appealing to buy online reviews in order to boost their reputation. This is a big mistake, however. Christopher Elliot asks the question in his 2018 Forbes article “Can you trust an online review? Not always.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Fakespot compiled an exclusive list of products with the most bogus ratings … bottom line: If something looks wrong, it probably is. And if you buy reviews, you'll get what you pay for.” Once trust is lost between a business and its customers, it can be an arduous process to regain this trust and reestablish a transparent relationship. The online world is unforgiving and there will almost always still be traces of fake reviews if a business engages in this type of disingenuous action.
Buying online reviews can often have the opposite effect on customers that the business owner intended. Their hope is that these purchased online reviews will increase the trust and reputation of their business when users come across their profile. However, if customers sense these are fake reviews, they will view the business as dishonest. It indicates that the business is unable to generate genuine positive reviews and they can only do so through buying fake ones.
This type of business practice is detrimental in the long term, and violates all 3rd-party review platform’s terms of service like Google. Why risk your business reputation when you can generate genuine, quality reviews using a service rather than buy online reviews that are fabricated.