How to Deal with a Negative Google Review

It was not a good way to start the day…

Every Sunday morning, I check my email for a notification that tells me if my weekly newsletter went out as scheduled. Last Sunday, the notification was there, but there was also a rather unpleasant surprise…a one-star Google for one of my clients.

We manage his Google presence, and I am alerted whenever someone leaves a new review (good or bad). This particular client has a 5.0 with dozens of reviews, so I was shocked to see a one-star review.

The reviewer left a scathing review. They cited specific problems and called out a long-term employee by name. The review was left at 2 a.m., which is common for negative reviews. 

I forwarded the review to my client right away and told him that the one thing we can’t do is ignore a review like this. A couple of days later, I had a call from his Operations Manager. He explained what happened with the reviewer, and we discussed how to respond. 

In this case, the reviewer was the grandson of the deceased and was upset that the Funeral Director could not get his homemade tribute video to work. The grandson tried to be a bully, and the Funeral Director stood up to him. There was some tension, but it was relatively minor.

Apparently, the grandson is known for having a short fuse, and one of the other family members told the Funeral Director to ignore him.

My recommendation to the Operations Manager was to call their primary contact with the family and check to make sure they were satisfied with the service. Assuming they were, ask if they’ve seen the review and discuss the concerns.

The Operations Manager called the family contact and found they were delighted with the service. When he asked about the review, the family contact was shocked by what the grandson had done. The contact said, “I’ll deal with this,” and within an hour, the grandson had deleted the review.

Problem solved…

In today’s world, your Google reviews can make or break your funeral home business. I’ve seen funeral homes driven out of business because of negative reviews. 

But unfortunately, despite your best efforts, even the best funeral home can receive a negative review.

Here are three recommendations for responding to a negative review.

Option #1 – Call the family.

As outlined in the story above, calling the family is often your best action. 

Often, the person leaving the negative review is not speaking for the family; they are just venting their opinion. If you have done a good job of caring for the family, they will not appreciate having one family member attack you.

If they have any influence over the reviewer, your family contact will make the phone call, and the review will disappear from Google. Yes, the reviewer will still be annoyed, but at least the review will be gone.

In the past year, I have had three clients use this strategy to have a negative review removed. The best way to deal with a cyberbully is to let their family deal with them.

Option #2 – Call the reviewer

Sometimes, the reviewer is not a family member, so the family cannot get them to remove the review. In those cases, I always recommend calling the reviewer. Typically, you can find their number in the visitation guest registry. (which is why you should always keep a copy of the registry)

Call the person and say you want to know more about the situation. Many times, after the person has unloaded and you’ve had a chance to explain your side, they might feel differently. At that point, you can ask them to reconsider the review.

Option #3 – Reply on Google

If you can’t use option #1 or #2 to get the review removed, your only choice is to reply to the review on Google.

Here’s the key….do not use this as an opportunity to explain your side of the situation in detail. Go ahead if you can express your side in just one or two sentences. But if you find yourself writing a paragraph, it’s time to put your frustrations aside and delete your reply before posting it.

The best reply is something like this…”This is Jim Johnson, President of Johnson Funeral Home. I take your comments very seriously and would like to discuss this with you. Please call our funeral home at <your number> and ask for me. I will handle this matter personally.”

Sometimes, the reviewer will remove the review because they got your attention, and that’s what they wanted. If they don’t, future families will see the negative review, read your response, and appreciate that you offered to address the concern. 

If you have used one of these options and the review is still on Google, the best thing you can do is bury the review with at least 5 or 6 positive reviews as quickly as possible. Most people will only read the first few reviews and won’t bother reading the rest.

Reviews can make or break your business. My best clients all have over 100 five-star reviews and at least a 4.8 score on Google. If they get a one-star review, it hurts, but it won’t kill their business.

If you have less than 50 reviews, or you don’t have any in the past few months, you’re vulnerable. All it takes is a cyberbully with an axe to grind, and you’re left scrambling to respond.

If you need help building up your online reputation, I have a new service that I will be launching in November. 

Contact me if you would like a sneak preview.

Remember, it’s in your best interest to collect as many excellent Google reviews as possible because a cyberbully will leave you a negative review someday, and it will probably happen at 2 a.m.

Until next time,


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