Auto Service World
News   November 21, 2023   by Joe Flammer

From the Magazine: The digital minefield of Google reviews

How to navigate your response to bad feedback

Online reviews can make or break a business.

Google Reviews, specifically, powerfully shape potential customers’ opinions. Racking up a few hundred four- and five-star reviews shows you’re a shop that delivers on its promises and builds trust with customers.

But dealing with a bad Google review is something every business eventually faces. The fact is, you’re going to get bad reviews.

More important than the bad review itself, though, is the way you respond to it.

Sometimes they come from a technician’s disgruntled ex-girlfriend or a bargain-seeking customer with unrealistic expectations. Sometimes they come from a customer with a legitimate gripe when your team dropped the ball.

Either way, those negative reviews give you and your team an opportunity to grow and even excel.

As the leader of your business, you can choose to respond to negative reviews in a way that sets you up for success.

Legitimate negative reviews

These are the reviews that keep us up at night.

They point out the weaknesses in our shop that we’d rather ignore. They can feel like the proverbial acorn that fell on Chicken Little’s head, causing us to worry that the sky is falling and the business we have worked so hard to build is going to fall apart.

As the leader of your business, you can choose to respond to negative reviews in a way that sets you up for success.

Learn from it. Every person — and every business — makes mistakes. When your team drops the ball and a customer leaves a bad review, ask yourself and your team what you can learn from this experience and how you can get better.

Respond with empathy and sincerity. Remember that you’ve had frustrating experiences with businesses that you’ve hired for goods or services. Some of those companies listened to your concerns and solved the problems. Those companies likely deepened your trust and admiration for them. You can do the same for customers who have legitimate concerns. Keep in mind that your response isn’t just for this one customer — the community will look at what you say.

Write for your future customers. Many customers look specifically at negative reviews to decide whether they’ll do business with you. They want to know what led to the negative review and then consider if they’ll have the same problem. When future customers see a thoughtful, solution-focused response, it’s a signal that your company cares and the small percentage of concerns are dealt with in a helpful way.

Solve the problem. When a customer has a real concern, do what it takes to fix that concern. Brakes are still squeaking? Fix the brakes. Your new GS got the car dirty? Offer to clean the car and their next oil change is free. Sometimes you’ll need to write a check to reimburse a customer. Go above and beyond and you’ll turn your critics into raving fans.

You won’t turn all your detractors into delighted, loyal customers. But your positive attitude and proactive problem-solving will do more to keep and attract new customers than ignoring a bad review or, worse, tit-for-tat arguing.

Illegitimate negative reviews

For every justified negative review, you’re also going to see fake ones — people sharing negative reviews without a good reason. First, refer back to the point of ‘writing for your future customers.’

State the facts. If you don’t have any record of the reviewer having their vehicle serviced at your shop, say that. Maybe the review was left for another shop with a similar name. Also, if this is the case, you are able to ask Google to remove that review.

Be concise and professional. You don’t need to get into an argument. All you need to do is show that there’s another side to this story. Again, stick to the facts and don’t inject emotion. Take the high ground and trust those future customers to see your side.

Great service: The antidote to bad reviews

Whether it’s a legitimate or phony negative review, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. Do your best to respond. But in the end, a few negative reviews aren’t the end of the world.

Realistically, people are suspicious of five-star businesses because they know that almost no one can live up to that standard. Work toward, 4.7 stars on the review sites and you’ll do fine.

In the end, the best thing you can do to combat negative reviews is provide great service and bury the bad reviews with great reviews. When you do that, your shop will continue to grow and flourish.

Joe Flammer is a director of marketing for Turnkey Marketing. Based in Kansas City, he serves as outsourced director of marketing for auto repair shops. Learn more at

This article originally appeared in the October issue of CARS.

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