How to Handle a Bad Google Review
Our clinic recently received a terrible review on Google. I had just gotten settled on a plane, when I opened Google to check our reviews, and there it was. I instinctively took a cue from an experience I had with Amazon in the past. I took the complaint seriously and addressed it swiftly, without excuses.
I’ll tell you what happened, and how I learned to successfully handle a bad Google review.
So many of us are befuddled by the Google impact—or the net impact. We work hard to build teams and organizations that offer excellent service or products. But as much as we try, there will still be times when we fail.
Sometimes customers go online and leave reviews. As a consumer, I have even left bad ones if the service warranted it and I received no attention to my initial complaint. Having a positive online footprint is very important to your reputation. So how should you address a bad online review?
According to many surveys, including list25.com, Amazon.com is the number one company in customer service. They have figured out a highly effective way to handle complaints—a system they followed when my expectations were not met with the excellence I have come to know from them. And that’s the same method I applied in my recent experience with our bad Google review.
I am a loyal Amazon customer. I have given them thousands of dollars in business. The one time I received poor service, I let them know, and they went above and beyond in their response. I was so impressed with that experience, that I patterned my response after theirs. I will share the steps with you below, and the actual email correspondence with the person who left the bad review. (I’ve hidden any personal references.)
Step 1: Check Your Google Reviews Daily
Google has the budget and technology to track reviews. Acquiring positive Google reviews starts by having someone in your company check the reviews every day. And I mean every single day. I check the reviews for our clinic myself each day. They can be checked more often of course, but that may be overkill for a small to medium sized company.
If you can make this part of your daily routine, you may also want to check for reviews on WhitePages, Yelp, and Yahoo, among others. At this point however, Google is the most popular search engine, so checking your Google reviews is a must.
What are you looking for when you check? Both good and bad reviews. When you come across good reviews, congratulate your team, and learn what is working. All the while, keep your eye out for bad reviews. To handle bad reviews efficiently, you must catch them immediately!
Step 2: Find the Person Who Left the Bad Review
Now that you are checking daily, at some point you will come across a bad review. When you do, your first task is to find the contact information for the person who left that review. This can be a challenge. If you cannot find the person who wrote the bad review, it is unlikely you can do anything to remedy the situation for them. Many people will post their names. But if they don’t, you may have to do a little detective work to see if you can track them down.
Keep in mind that most people submit the bad review right after they’ve received the poor service, while they are still upset. So if you check the reviews daily, it’s likely that the person received the bad service within the last couple of days. This may help you identify your dissatisfied customer by checking your organization’s databases. Your goal in this step is to obtain their email and phone number.
Step 3: Contact Them
Respond to the person who left the complaint by sending a personal email. It is really ideal that email comes from the owner, administrator, or VP of customer service, if at all possible.
The email should communicate these three messages:
- I am sorry. Apologize, whether it was your fault or not. Never try to explain. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to explain yourself because there is “always” a good reason why we failed, right? Even offering what seem to be valid explanations nearly always negates your apology. In most cases, explanations will sound like excuses to the customer, and only serve to fuel their position. A simple apology is much more effective. That’s what Amazon did with me. They just sent an email saying they were sorry.
- Give them a full refund. No questions asked, refund their money. Trust me, in the long run, you will gain a customer, hopefully even more when they tell others how you turned their experience around. In many cases they will reverse their online review, or leave a positive one. Even though your customer was initially disappointed, now they will be impressed. I was definitely impressed when Amazon offered me a simple apology and refunded my money. I couldn’t believe such a big company would care about my bad experience.
- Don’t ask for them to change the review. By asking, many people will not want to change it. When you don’t ask, but simply do the right thing by taking care of the problem, most people will change it on their own. I changed my Amazon review immediately once the problem was resolved.
Step 4: Train Your Staff/Change Your Systems
Bring up the issue with your team, and make sure to train them so that the same mistake does not happen again. Here is the actual bad review we received at the clinic, how we chose to respond, and the revised review.
Bad Review (Two Stars on Google): Very long wait to see the doctor. Staff was condescending when asked. Will NOT go back. (Now, as soon as I read this review, I remembered the patient. I had worked so hard that day, and was going as fast as I could in order to minimize the patients’ wait time. It was the flu season and honestly, any other clinic would have had longer wait times. Moreover, this patient was visiting from out of town over the holidays. So they were not our regular patients, and they were just passing through. But we must have done something wrong along the way for them to feel talked down to. All of this went through my head as I read the review. But I quickly dismissed these “excuses,” and avoided the temptation to add any of these thoughts to my response. The bottom line was they felt mistreated.)
My Emailed Response (made within two hours of the review) : This is Dr. Wes Saade. I met you at TotalCare yesterday. The reason I am writing is to apologize for the long wait time at the clinic, and our staff’s communication with you. I read your review on Google this morning, and was very upset that our staff treated you unkindly. I, and the clinic leadership, work extremely hard to give our patients the best experience possible, and daily stress the importance of kind patient care. It sounds like we failed during your visit. As the owner of the practice, I want to extend my sincere apologies. Your visit will be free and not billed to your insurance. If you remember the name or appearance of the team member that was condescending, would you kindly let me know so we can give her more training and help? If you need anything, please call or text my cell phone at… I will be out of the country for a few days, but can still receive calls.
Patient’s Emailed Response: Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate you taking the time to respond personally. I have edited my review on Google. I did not get the name of the staff member. She was sitting in the middle area between the exam rooms and on the phone, when I came out. Thank you for seeing us yesterday. We are feeling better.
Revised Review: The new review was changed from two stars to four stars and said: Dr. Saade was polite and helpful. He also took the time to apologize personally for a wait. I appreciated his personal touch.
Actionable Step: Decide who in your organization will check the reviews daily. Decide which search engines will be checked. Decide how good and bad reviews will be shared with the team, how they will be responded to, and then make sure your team is executing that method.
About me: I start every morning by answering my emails while I am still in bed. I set my timer for 22 minutes, and usually can get through all of them in that time. I try not to answer a lot of emails during the day.
For Further Reading: