Dealing with Online Complaints

Here is the sad reality. Most if not all businesses will receive at least one online complaint no matter how good they are. The internet has brought good things, but it has also brought bad things. One of the bad things that has come from the internet has been online complaints. That is not to say that some businesses don’t deserve complaints. The issue is that it has empowered people to write pretty much what they want with little chance of accountability. This has enabled people to write fake complaints or totally biased complaints and sadly in some cases be incredibly nasty.

We know that in general if a client is happy, they are much less likely to write a review than a person who feels aggrieved for some reason. As a result, business owners can end up with a disproportionate number of bad reviews to good reviews. The number one place to put bad reviews is on their Google My Business page. Do not delude yourself in to thinking that if you get a fake or unfair review, Google will do something; they almost never do. You will be stuck with the review.

Google is an incredibly wealthy company, but when it comes to Google reviews, they don’t seem to particularly want to know. Their attitude tends to be that they cannot easily determine who is telling the truth, so prefer to stay out of the issue. It may be unrealistic to expect them to delve deeply into an issue to be judge and jury, but there are some things they could do, such as not publish reviews immediately and encourage parties to resolve their issues before contemplating publication.

What do you do when you get a bad review on your Google My Business page?

  • Be aware that the complainant gets the last say. You can respond, but they can then respond to your response and that is where it ends. This gives them the advantage of being able to think up suitable retorts to your response so that they have the last say and the best chance of causing damage.
  • You should respond, because if you don’t people will assume the complaint is justified.
  • Don’t rush to respond and ensure that when you do, you are in the right frame of mind.
  • Take the high ground. Be professional.
  • Do not be emotional. You can be emotional in describing how upset you are with the complaint but draw the line there. Don’t be emotional in any other element of your response.
  • If you have made a mistake, own it and apologise. We are all human. People will respect your honesty. Learn from it and use it to make improvements.
  • Don’t get personal. Stick to the facts.
  • Put effort into your response, taking it seriously. People are more likely to accept your side of the story.
  • Ask happy clients to go on and place a review. If appropriate, you could ask them to refute a claim made in a bad review. It is always more impressive when a client is backing you up.
  • If you believe it is a fake review, then call it out. State that you have no record of ever doing business with them and ask them to provide details so that you can investigate their complaint further. By doing it in this manner, you are remaining open minded to their complaint, if its proven justified which maintains your credibility.
  • File a complaint with Google, but don’t hold your breath!
  • Be smart with your response and try and limit the opportunities for come back.

In terms of the last point, I want to give you an example. I was asked by a client to assist with a complaint that they had received. The complaint was not from a former client, but rather the son who alleged his mother had been harassed. In considering the information provided, there were two very important points:

  1. The complaint was not from the client, rather the son and
  2. The client has been with the business for 8 years.

I made recommendations for their response which included ensuring that it was pointed out that:

  1. 8 years is a long time to have a client, so they must have done a lot right and
  2. The client has not made any complaint.

These are two facts that could not be refuted and point to the fact that all could not be as the complainant wanted readers to believe! The relationship between the two parties had clearly been very good for a very long time and given the client never complained, who is to say they were actually unhappy?

It is incredibly disappointing to get negative online reviews, but for most it will happen. Be smart, and put in the effort to give a quality response.

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