Dealing With Negative Reviews Online in 2021

While a study of localsearch.com.au showed only 9% of submitted reviews in last 12 months were less than 5 stars, it's crucial to know how dealing with negative reviews online in 2021 can impact your reputation. In fact, negative reviews can even help improve your reputation online. Find out how...

In summary:

  • 9% of reviews published on localsearch.com.au in the last 12 months were not 5 star.
  • More than 29,000 reviews have been submitted on localsearch.com.au in the last 12 months.
  • Businesses can take easy steps to deal with negative reviews to ensure they don’t impact their reputation, even if they cannot be removed.

In 2021, all businesses should be collecting online reviews on multiple platforms

After all, reviews are the new word of mouth, with localsearch.com.au receiving more 29,000 review submissions for regional businesses in the last 12 months alone. 

However, putting yourself online does open you up to negative feedback, regardless of how much effort you put into providing an amazing experience. 

Of all the reviews submitted on localsearch.com.au between early 2020 to early 2021, only 9% of reviews were not a 5-star review, being a 4, 3, 2 or 1-star submission. A further 8% of submissions were not published due to not meeting current review regulations in Australia. 

But, it’s these 9% of reviews businesses are most concerned about. While we know studies have shown negative reviews are in fact helpful for your business, it’s how you’re dealing with negative reviews online in 2021 that make the difference between helpful and unhelpful. 

These tips have helped many of those on our list of most highly rated verified businesses on localsearch.com.au in 2021.

The Most Common Reasons Businesses Receive Negative Reviews

Based on data from Localsearch.com.au between the 1 January 2021 until 15 April 2021, the most common reasons for a 1, 2 or 3 star review were related to poor customer service or communication. 

In general, 1 and 5 star reviews are far more common than 2, 3 and 4 star reviews. Consumers are far more likely to rate a business 1 or 2 stars based on a single bad experience, regardless of past positive experiences. For example, between the 1 April and 14 April 2021, 2% of published reviews on localsearch.com.au were 2 star reviews, .9% were 3 star reviews and 2% were 4 star.

The most common reasons for negative reviews are:

  • Phone, email or social media enquiries not being answered.
  • No communication when not turning up for a job, closing store early, etc.
  • Being spoken to aggressively by a staff member.
  • Poor expectations of the outcome explained prior to job or agreements not being fully understood.
  • Orders not matching the description or photos displayed online.
  • Complaints not being handled appropriately, such as being ignored. 
  • Poor workmanship.

How to Deal with Negative Reviews in 2021

1. Respond to the review.

The first thing you should do when receiving a negative review is to respond. 

While a 2016 study by PowerReviews shows 82% of consumers seek out negative reviews, Revoo found research to show consumers spend five times as long on the site a business who responds to negative review, with an 85% higher conversion rate.

So, what we can see is that if a business is responding to negative reviews, they actually have a higher conversion rate than those without any. Various other studies have shown people are more likely to believe the legitimacy of positive reviews when there are negative submissions too.

Your instinct when dealing with a negative review may be to defend yourself, your business and staff, but if not done correctly, can look aggressive. If you believe the reviewer is in the wrong, don’t have the conversation online and if you have evidence of false claims, lodge to have the review removed.

How to respond to a negative review:

  1. Thank them for their feedback. While you may not like it, people seeing the review need to know you welcome feedback, good or bad.
  2. Let them know you want to resolve the matter and will be in touch, or if you cannot identify the reviewer, ask them to contact a specific person or team and give them those details in your response.
  3. If you need to let them know of an incorrect statement, do so carefully and ask them to contact you if they want to clarify any information.

Examples of a good response to a negative review:

Hi Reviewer Name,

Thank you for taking the time to let us know your feedback. While this isn’t the experience we’re so well known for, we appreciate you letting us know. Unfortunately, this is not a service we run at our business, but we would love to resolve the matter with you if you could contact our support team at [email protected].

Thank you again,

Business Name

2. Make an attempt to contact the reviewer.

When dealing with a negative review in 2021, you should reach out to the reviewer directly (if you have their details) and resolve the issue. If you’re able to do so, you can then ask if the reviewer would be happy to remove or update their review.

Hopefully, the person who submitted the review has used the full name they used when interacting with your business, and you have record with this. Of course, this may be harder to trace if you are a retail or hospitality business, but this is where you can encourage them to contact you.

Some people are not comfortable with their personal information being online, including their full name, so may submit a review under an alias. This is even more important you respond to the review requesting them to contact you to resolve the matter. 

Review platforms generally cannot provide you with the personal unpublished information of the review due to privacy laws.

3. Assess if there are grounds to remove the review.

Reviews in Australia are regulated under the ACCC, with precedence of court cases for breaches by all parties. This means unless there are grounds to remove a review under regulations, review platforms are unable to do so, protecting you as a business also.

Each platform will have their own guidelines to adhere to, so it’s best to read up on these when you agree to receive reviews or recommendations to understand your rights as a business.

How to remove a review from Google:

  1. Log in to your Google My Business (GMB) account.
  2. Click on the Reviews tab on the left-hand side on a desktop computer.
  3. Find the review you believe should be removed under Google’s review guidelines and click the three stacked dots on the far right of the review.
  4. Choose Flag as inappropriate. 
  5. Follow the prompts based on how you believe the review does not comply with Google’s guidelines. 

Google will email you to let you know if they can or cannot remove the review. These emails are generally automated, so if you believe the review still does not comply with guidelines, contact your local legal support.

How to remove a review from Facebook:

  1. Log in to your Facebook Business manager.
  2. Find your recommendations on your profile and the particular review you wish to report.
  3. Click on the three dots to the right of the review.
  4. Select Give feedback on this review.
  5. Follow the prompts based on why you believe the recommendation is considered hate speech or inappropriate content.

Like Google, Facebook will generally advise you via automated email if the recommendation has been removed, so if you wish to go further with your complaint, you will need legal guidance.

How to remove a review from localsearch.com.au:

  1. Email [email protected] stating your business name, the review you believe does not meet Localsearch review guidelines and your physical evidence to support this reason.

All responses to removing a review from localsearch.com.au are by a real person and they will help you the best they can within the limitations of the current laws.

How to remove a review from Trustpilot:

  1. Log in to your Trustpilot business account.
  2. Select the Reviews dropdown from the left-hand panel, followed by Service reviews beneath this heading.
  3. Find the review you wish to report for not meeting Trustpilot review guidelines 
  4. If you know who the reviewer is, click the flag icon on the bottom right of the review you wish to report and follow the prompts.
  5. If you do not know who the review is, select Find Reviewer and follow the prompts. After the indicated number of business days, Trustpilot will let you know if the reviewer returned confirmation of engagement with your business or not, and whether you should flag the review for being a false entry.

Trustpilot will send you an automated email acknowledging if they have been able to remove the flagged review or not.

4. Use the negative feedback to implement change.

Think of your online reviews like a customer feedback survey. They are telling you where you excel and where you can improve, which can be hard to digest as such when your business is your baby. However, it’s important you look at it in an unbiased manner.

For example, if you’re receiving reviews saying they’re not receiving responses to enquiries, find out if you could have an inbox unmonitored, a phone line not attended to at some times of the day and your social media accounts are being checked regularly throughout the day. Even better, talk directly to the reviewer to find out exactly how they contacted you.

5. Encourage positive review submissions.

As we’ve seen negative reviews help consumers believe the legitimacy of positive reviews, as well as with conversions too. However, you need positive reviews in the first place for this to work, and keep your total average star rating to around 3.8 to 4.9.

3 easy ways to get more online reviews:

  1. Ask for them.

When you’ve finished providing amazing service with your client or customer, ask them if they’d mind leaving a review for you on one of your preferred platforms. You may even wish to do this in a follow-up email instead of at time of sale to really cement how great your business is for the community.

2. Include a link to review in your email signature.

In your email signature, add a ‘Review Us’ or ‘Rate Your Experience With Me’ button and link it through to where they can leave you a review. If you have the budget to really focus on review marketing, you can use reputation management software.

With reputation management software, you direct people wanting to leave a review via your own collateral, like an email signature or your website, to a form. This form will ask how they rate you out of 5. Higher ratings, normally 4 or 5, will direct them to leave a review, while a lower rating will have them direct them to a feedback form. 

Reputation management software is completely legal and is a great way to manage your online reputation if you’re undergoing some changes to improve your brand image.

3. Display a review widget on your website.

Many review platforms will have a widget you can place on your website to encourage more reviews. For example, a collection of Localsearch widgets allow you to display reviews from your business profile, encourage new reviews and more. 

These widgets are easy to install if you have access to the backend of your website, otherwise, you can request your developer to do this for you. 

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