How to Handle Bad Google Reviews

Getting a bad Google Review sucks, whether it is deserved or not the chances are (very high, see statistics below) that at some point handling bad Google reviews is a challenge every business owner faces.

But I believe how you respond to a bad Google Review (and yes, you MUST respond) is not just about damage control; it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction.

Here’s a story that illustrates how not to deal with negative feedback followed by some actionable tips that will help you if you are ever in this position.


Rory the Uber Driver, 

and the Story of a Salon Owners Response to a Bad Google Review.

I was traveling for a couple of weeks, taking my podcast, Vitality Vault, on the road and the last day of my trip landed me at the Jersey Shore.

(it’s a great place, trust me – and the bagels and pizza are next level and worth the trip alone).

On my way to Newark Airport on the last day, Rory, my lovely Uber driver and I had an insightful conversation as we navigated the Parkway and Turnpike (IFYKYK).

I’m a huge fan of Rory. He is an energetic, smart, little dude originally from Trinidad and Tobago with an entrepreneurial brain. About 10 minutes into our ride we found common ground and launched into a convo about the ups and downs of running a hair salon.

Before COVID-19, Rory had a salon in Red Bank, NJ that was thriving; but the pandemic hit his business hard. However, what troubled him most was one bad Google review he had received that left a lasting impact on him. He was still angry about it 5 years later.

This story is about that review, and the lessons we can learn from it.

One of Rory’s first clients was a gentleman who regularly visited the salon with his son. They were loyal customers, visiting every few months. Great customers, the kind every small business wants.

In September 2019, the son showed up to get a quick cut, he didnt have and appointment but Rory welcomed him in and let him know he would make time for him and to get settled in to his favorite chair. What Rory didn’t know was that his 10:30am scheduled appointment had already checked in and was just grabbing her purse she had mistakenly left in the car.

Not good.

Rory apologized for his mistake to the son, asked if he would wait and promised to get to him soon. It happens, we are human, but the son had no time to sit around and quickly left.

The next day, the salon received a scathing Google review from the client, expressing his frustration about the mixup and how he and his dad had been loyal customers since the salon’s opening and expected to be treated better. Rory was devastated and didn’t understand why the client, whom he considered a friend, would leave such a damaging review over what he felt was a simple mistake.

I asked Rory how he responded. He said he had tried to get the review removed, but Google said no. He told me he knew it was his fault but couldnt bring himself to respond, he didn’t know how. He knew he should, but was so hurt he just couldn’t do it.

We talked more and went through different ways to respond that could have turned the situation around. Rory knew that by ignoring the review he was making a bad choice.


How to Respond to Bad Google Reviews

Stay Calm and Reflect:

  • Avoid Emotional Responses: Take a moment to calm down before responding. Emotional reactions can escalate the situation and reflect poorly on your business.
  • Understand the Client’s Perspective: Try to see the situation from the client’s point of view. This helps in crafting a more empathetic response.

Craft a Professional Response:

  • Acknowledge and Apologize: Start by acknowledging the client’s experience and apologizing for any inconvenience. This shows you value their feedback.
  • Be Sincere: A genuine apology can go a long way in mending relationships. Avoid canned responses; personalize your reply.
  • Address the Issue: Explain what went wrong and what steps you’re taking to prevent it from happening again. This reassures both the reviewer and potential customers.

Move the Conversation Offline:

  • Invite Further Discussion: Encourage the reviewer to contact you directly to resolve the issue. This demonstrates your willingness to make things right. Make sure you leave a # or personalized email (not an info or general one) to make it easy for them to reach out.
  • Avoid Offering Freebies Publicly: Do not offer compensation in the review response. This can set a precedent and may lead others to leave negative reviews in hopes of receiving freebies.

Monitor and Learn:

  • Track Feedback Trends: Regularly monitor reviews to identify common issues. Use this feedback to improve your services.
  • Encourage Positive Reviews: Motivate satisfied clients to leave positive reviews. This helps balance out the negative ones and shows potential clients the full picture.

Additional Tips for Handling Bad Reviews

  • Respond Promptly: Address reviews quickly to show that you are attentive and care about your customers’ opinions. Don’t let it sit unanswered for days, others are watching and will notice.
  • Stay Professional: Never get defensive or engage in arguments. Keep your responses professional and courteous.
  • Showcase Improvements: If you’ve made changes based on feedback, let your reviewers know. This demonstrates that you take their comments seriously.

Statistics on Bad Reviews

Understanding the prevalence and impact of reviews can help put things into perspective:

  • Prevalence: About 74% of local businesses have at least one bad Google review​ (Review42)​​ (BrightLocal)​.
  • Impact: Negative reviews influence the buying decisions of 86% of consumers​ (Review42)​. However, responding to reviews can positively affect consumer perception and trust​ (Luisa Zhou)​​ (BrightLocal)​.

Bad reviews can be disheartening, but they are also opportunities to showcase your commitment to excellence and customer care. By handling them with grace and professionalism, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one for both your business and your clients.

author avatar
Shannon Hayes CEO
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