Maureen Buscher-Dang

I received a frantic call the other day from a new client we’ll call Bob with Acme Services. He found two negative reviews with one-star ratings posted in his business listing on Google. Bob wanted to know if there was anything he could do to fix it. And fast.

The business listing was a new concept to Bob. I had recently shown him how to “claim” his listing on Google. Acme Services specializes in remodeling and home improvement services. Once he claimed his listing, he was able to direct happy clients where they could leave their reviews. His company lives and dies on word-of-mouth referrals and maintaining a solid reputation.

Over the last few months, the company had been receiving a handful of angry phone calls and Bob was concerned. People complained that Acme called them multiple times during the day, even after being told they had a wrong number. After listening to the callers’ details and doing an internet search, Bob finally figured out there was a similarly named Acme Services in another state. It turned out to be a collection agency.

The company receptionist learned to patiently explain the mix-up to any upset callers and let them know Bob’s company doesn’t handle collections. For two callers, they took their frustrations out by leaving nasty reviews on Bob’s business listing:

“I’ve told them they have the wrong number each time they call, and believe me it’s several times a day. Yet they keep harassing me. There’s got to be a way I can report them.”

“I have the same issue as the other caller. Jason Smith doesn’t have this number. I have no idea who the heck he is.”

We helped Bob implement a three-step solution to the bad reviews.

The first step was quick and easy. Bob needed to politely respond. He also needed to make clear what the circumstances were so that any prospective client reading the negative review would have context about the complaint. We wrote separate replies for each similar to this:

“Dear Mr. Hanson, we are sorry to hear about your phone calls. We assure you Acme Services did not make them. We specialize in remodeling and home improvement services. Most likely those calls are coming from Acme Services in another state. They are a collection agency. We have no affiliation with them. Our hope is that you will please consider removing your review from Google. You are also welcome to call us to discuss. Thank you for your consideration.”

The next step was also quick and easy. Bob asked four or five happy clients to write and post positive reviews over the course of a couple of weeks. They were pleased to be asked to help.

The final step was quick, but the jury is still out on results. We flagged each review for removal and reported a “policy violation” to Google via a form submission. The four violation types don’t really fit the fact that the reviews were for the wrong business. If they deem the violation to be valid, the offending one-star negative reviews will be removed.

It’s been three weeks and the negative reviews remain, although Google’s form did advise us to “be patient.” The good news is they have been pushed much lower in the reading order by more current, positive client reviews that Bob asked for and continues to receive.

— Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield public relations and marketing consultant. She can be contacted through her website

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