How to Respond to Negative Reviews on Google

For today’s small business, a single negative online review can have a massive impact on your reputation. Bad reviews left unaddressed only make it worse, with your truck or car wash seeming like it sweeps its problems under the rug — and customers’ opinions right along with it.

With nearly 97 percent of consumers reading online reviews before visiting a new business, it’s fundamental for your car wash to make a habit of responding to negative feedback. And since Google receives the seismic majority of online search queries — 88.6 percent, to be exact — acknowledging the bad reviews that pop up on its search platform is vital.

Responding to negative reviews allows you to resolve real-world customer problems while building a positive reputation online. Prospective and current customers alike will view car washes that leverage bad reviews into customer-service opportunities far more favorably. Be part of that savvy group with these step-by-step, negative review response guidelines.

How to Reply to Google Reviews

Before understanding what to say when replying to negative Google reviews, you must first know how you can respond to those reviews — in other words, how you log into, type and reply directly to a customer’s comment using your car wash’s Google My Business account. Owners can manage their business’ Google profile on their desktop or smartphone through the following steps.

1. Navigate to Google My Business

Google My Business is the hub of your car wash’s online presence. When activated, it sets up your business to appear in a standout, top-page box rather than as a regular, listed website. That box more focally displays your location, hours, directions, company description and — of course — reviews.

Open and access your free Google My Business manager here.

2. Choose Your Listing

Find the three horizontally stacked bars on your Google My Business homepage. For desktop browsers, that icon will appear in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. For mobile users, it will be part of the main header menu.

Click that icon, then select your listing.

3. Select “Manage My Reviews”

Clicking this option from your listing allows you to see and access all reviews posted on Google about your website, positive and negative.

4. Find the Negative Review You Want to Engage With

Once you find a review you want to engage with, click “View and reply,” then type and post your response.

Bonus Step: Set up Review Notifications

Google My Business review notifications are an excellent customer service tool for your car wash’s reputation. You’ll know the minute your business receives a new rating, making it easier to respond quickly and professionally.

Steps for Responding to Negative Reviews on Google

How exactly should you respond to poor reviews on Google? What words, tone of voice and reconciliation offerings should you make to the dissatisfied customer — if any at all? We’ve got a time-tested response formula that can leverage negative online reviews into productive touchpoints for your car wash.

1. Assess the Validity of the Criticism

Take a step back for a moment to review the situation. Immediately engaging with a hostile commenter can produce equally hostile responses. Even knee-jerk answers to glowing reviews can sound inauthentic or scripted, defeating the impact of the reply in the first place.

Give yourself a few minutes to think about the negative review’s central claims and point of view before responding. Hitting that internal pause button allows you to craft a significantly more effective response.

2. Respond Promptly and Publicly

While it might feel like the last thing you want to do, thank the customer for airing their concerns or bringing an unpleasant experience to your attention. Lost face aside, hearing outside opinions is the only way to learn what’s going on in people’s minds when they visit your car wash. Push that thank you to the front of your message — in the opening sentence, if possible. Make sure you’re responding publicly as well, so other readers can see your business’ commitment to righting perceived wrongs.

3. State This Is Not Your Business’ Standard

Tell the client directly the experience they had or the issue they underwent is not the way you conduct business. Doing this is a powerful, yet subtle, way for your response to accomplish three things: First, it tells future readers this customer’s experience is the exception, not the norm. Second, it relays how seriously you take these claims and wish to reconcile them against your high business standards. Last but not least, it gives you an opening to infuse a small bit of product or service marketing into your response — more on this later.

4. Be Genuine

The tone of your response is one of the most important aspects to nail each time you log into Google My Business. Be as sympathetic to their experience and as genuine in your word choices as possible without sounding artificial or over the top. The best responses to negative reviews on Google make the consumer feel heard, that their efforts and emotions have resulted in a meaningful, person-to-person dialogue. Talk like a real human, and they’ll be more likely to do the same.

5. Prompt Offline Dialogue

Suggest the customer call or email you personally so you can resolve lingering matters or discuss their concerns. That assures the conversation doesn’t fall down a rabbit hole the whole internet can read, plus gives the negative reviewer the satisfaction of one-on-one attention.

Keep your overall response short and sweet. You don’t need to write three full paragraphs with your company down on its metaphorical knees crying mea culpa — but you do need to be sympathetic, warm, clear and professional.

6. Offer a Solution to Resolve the Complaint

Responding to negative reviews should always provide some additional value or resolution. Include one or two ways you intend to solve this problem, both for this individual and for future customers.

Your solution or resolution should match the nature of the complaint. For example, you might offer to:

  • Set up a complimentary treatment or vehicle wash
  • Replace the faulty vehicle item or merchandise bought at your facility
  • Look into changing company policies, operations, etc.
  • Test or re-source the cleaning product in question
  • Discuss the issue with relevant staff members

7. Keep Tabs on Repeat Concerns

The occasional negative online review is inevitable. Car wash business owners — and owners of any business, really — should work as hard as possible to see these as leverageable moments, not stains on your entire reputation.

However, if you receive numerous complaints regarding the same or similar experiences, you need to take those seriously. They indicate something may be amiss in your operations, vendors, staff or more, which falls on your shoulders to rectify.

8. Communicate With Employees

If a customer’s complaint involved a specific staff member or personnel, take the time to discuss that issue with the relevant individual. That doesn’t mean reprimanding or calling them out in front of others, though. Mistakes happen. Plus, sitting down with employees to review negative customer experiences gives you the chance to hear their input and feedback as well, ultimately allowing you to craft a better response.

9. Consider Changes to Your Business

If complaints persist regarding a specific faulty product, process or employee, deal with them directly. You can include the changes you’re making in your customer response to illustrate your commitment to a solution.

10. Follow Up

Be patient, but proactive. If the negative reviewer took you up on your offer and reached out personally, consider following up in a few months to re-take their temperature: Have they stopped by the car wash since their incident? How did that experience go? Is there anything else you and your staff could do to make their visits better? These follow-up questions go a long way to convert a negative reviewer into a glowing, even loyal one.

How to Respond to a Bad Review Online

Studies have shown businesses that make a habit of responding to customer reviews of any kind result in better overall ratings. Here are examples of how to react to a bad review for your car wash to use when negativity strikes.

  • Full-service car washes: “Hi, [customer’s name]. I’m so sorry to hear we didn’t meet your expectations when you brought in your car last week. The stains you found in your backseat after your interior car cleaning are not acceptable according to our cleaning standards. We will be reviewing our records for the leather seat fabric detergent used during your visit, as well as testing its concentrations. In the meantime, please consider reaching out to our business manager at [business email address] so we can set up a complimentary fabric restoration. We’d love to earn back your trust.”
  • Automatic conveyor belt car washes, exterior conveyor car washes: “Thank you so much for bringing this concern to our attention, [customer’s name]. We want our automatic car washes to be quick, convenient options for busy folks to get the clean car they need. The fact you didn’t receive the treatment you needed in a timeframe that worked for you is against the very services we stand for. If you have time, give us a call at [appropriate phone number] so our facility manager, [name], can hear more about your experience to ensure it won’t repeat itself. Thank you again.”
  • Self-service car washes: “Hello, [customer’s name]. My name is [insert], and I’m the owner and manager of the self-service location you visited. My deepest apologies for the experience you had the other day. You have many car wash options in the area, and it’s inexcusable for our facilities to have broken or malfunctioning vacuums preventing you from fully cleaning your car’s interior and fulfilling the goal of your visit. We are currently replacing the equipment and would like to offer you an on-the-house cleaning, as well as a full refund for your last treatment. Please call or email me at [contact information] so I can personally arrange these for you, as well as hear any further questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Other Tips for Writing the Best Responses to Negative Online Reviews

Regardless of the car wash type or facility you operate, there are many additional tips and strategies for crafting the most effective responses to poor reviews.

1. Avoid Canned Responses

Some businesses use software or add extensions to their customer service computer programs that generate pre-scripted answers, with the aim of saving time and staff resources. These autogenerated “canned” responses, however, don’t convey nearly the same level of sympathy, professionality or detail a well-crafted business response should.

2. Address Them Personally

Open your response by addressing the commenter by their name. That humanizes you and adds a more conversational tone to your typed-out words. The customer will likely appreciate the level of attention calling them by their name shows — as well as the proof you don’t use prewritten responses.

3. Be Direct

Instead of saying “We’re sorry you experienced an issue with your car wash,” try “We’re sorry our automated wash bay malfunctioned and made your visit far more time-consuming than necessary,” and similar phrasing. Highlighting specific pain points uses similar logic to addressing the poster by name. It shows your attention to detail as well as your understanding of the situation, proving you’re not taking the incident lightly.

4. Put Empathy Above Everything

It can be difficult to hold back from unfair or overly harsh-sounding reviews. Our brains like to discredit or guard against perceived criticism immediately, but as a business owner, you can’t afford to. Knee-jerk or robotic-sounding responses will do more harm than the occasional negative review. Temper responses accordingly.

5. Leverage the Opportunity

Earlier, we mentioned how online responses could be a place to insert product or service details about your business. When done tactfully, you can infuse responses with specific soaks, detergents, protectants, treatments and more offered at your car wash, turning the text into a small, yet “non-salesy” piece of marketing.

6. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Following up with reviewers seals the deal that you’re committing to righting their wrongs. It also shows you were sincere in your initial response, with offers and resolutions you’re carrying out in real life, not just online for false PR.

7. Remember: Negative Reviews Are Inevitable

All businesses receive a bad review here and there. Avoiding or villainizing them only makes matters worse — plus it overshadows the feeling of positive reviews when they come, too.

8. Respond to the Good, Too!

No need to fixate only on damage control: Make a habit of interacting with positive reviewers as well as negative ones. Be just as personable and warm as you would with face-to-face interactions. Thank customers who leave glowing reviews for taking time to share their experience, then invite them back while highlighting another aspect of your business. For example, “We’re soon adding a line of green car cleaning treatments to our services. Next time you come by, give them a try and tell us what you think!”

Pro tip: In your response to positive reviews, make sure to drop your car wash’s name — that way, the good review can show up in Google’s top search results. The same logic, but in reverse, applies to your negative review responses: Don’t name-drop your business in your reply. That’ll make it easier for Google’s search algorithms to pull and display them.

9. Strategize Ways to Incentivize Positive Reviews

It’s so simple many business owners forget about asking patrons for online reviews. The more reviews your business gets, the higher it’ll rank in area Google searches, which in turn snowballs into more customers and even more positive reviews.

Use Industry-Leading Car and Truck Wash Products to Convert Negative Reviews, Increase Positive Ones

Car washes that use high-quality, contemporary cleaning products are the same businesses that produce superior vehicle washes — and secure more positive Google reviews.

Be even more proud of your business by partnering with one of today’s leading cleaning product providers. JBS Industries manufactures and maintains dozens of top-tier truck and car wash cleaning materials built for the industry. We’d love to partner with you.

Browse our full product catalog, then reach out with questions or for a quote today.

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