What to do With that Negative Review

It can happen to the best of companies. You’ve worked hard to get your company to come up on Google Maps for your most important keywords. And just when you get your listing to the first page, someone hits you with a negative review.

What do you do now?

First of all, take a deep breath. All indications are that the quantity of reviews is much more important to the Google Maps algorithm than the quality of those reviews. Oddly enough, that negative review might actually help your rankings.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with the click through rate of those rankings. The negative review reflects badly on your company, especially if it is one of a handful of reviews (or worse, the only review).

Don’t give into the dark side and write a positive review of yourself (or ask your employees to do so). People really can sniff those things out without much effort, and it makes your company look all the worse.

Perhaps given enough time you could come up with self-written reviews that would pass the “sniff” test, but wouldn’t that effort be better spent on getting legitimate reviews?

Instead, ask your customers to post reviews of your company to Google Maps (or one of the databases that feeds into it). If you’ve been taking care of them, many will be happy to do it.

Next, let’s go back to the negative review itself. Those that write negative reviews online tend to fit into one of three buckets:

  1. Those with completely legitimate concerns.
  2. Those with concerns you don’t completely agree with, but who aren’t entirely unreasonable.
  3. Those who are emotionally unbalanced in some way.

For the first group, the response is simple: fix their bloody problem. If you can’t figure out who exactly the customer is, make sure the next guy doesn’t have the same problem.

If you can’t fix the problem, you probably deserve the negative review (and the additional ones you’re likely going to receive).

The third group is a bit harder. If the reviewer is truly unhinged, engaging with him or her isn’t likely to do you any good.

I’ve got one client who received what he believed was an unreasonable review on Google Maps. I looked at the other reviews this guy had written, and of some thirty reviews, only two were even vaguely positive. All the rest were brutally negative. This didn’t seem to be a healthy person. Attempting to engage wasn’t going to help in any way.

In these cases, the best thing to do is almost always to walk away. However, if the review is truly defaming, and you can determine who posted it, you might explore legal action.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer. What little I know about the legal matters I got from watching Law & Order and John Grisham movies. Those who actually follow what I say without gaining advice from qualified legal counsel deserves what happens to them.

You’re unlikely to receive any help from Google with the negative review. The concept of common carrier means Google actually exposes itself to more liability if it censors such things.

On the other hand, you could take legal action with the reviewer himself. If the reviewer made false claims of fact (that can’t be ascribed to opinion) a defamation case could perhaps be made.

Be aware that this route is expensive, could result in additional negative publicity, and could fail outright. Even if you win, the best that is likely to happen is that the review is taken down. People who behave like this tend to be judgment proof.

You are probably better off just moving on to the next customer, and making sure you give them outstanding service.

Note: I put false reviews by competitors into this third bucket as well. While you could potentially take a legal course, proving that a competitor posted the review is likely to be tough. You’re better off ignoring it and working to make sure you have lots of positive reviews.

The middle group can be the hardest. While you don’t think their review was fair, it’s not without merit. First of all, attempt to look at the situation without emotion. You may learn that there is more merit than you initially think.

For instance, even a case of improper expectations boils down to a mistake by your company, if those expectations were not set properly.

If you can determine who the reviewer is, attempting to engage may be worthwhile. In many cases, simply allowing the complaint to be heard may do a lot to smooth things over. You also may learn how to serve your customers better.

What’s almost always the case is that engaging with the situation is better than ignoring it.

In summary, your best defense against a negative review is to have lots of legitimate positive reviews. But when that negative review comes, don’t be afraid to engage with the review and fix the problem.