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Dealing with Negative Reviews of Your School

6 min read
Nov 1, 2022 8:00:00 AM

So you have some negative school reviews online. What do you do to turn the situation into a positive?

There’s no way around it: online shopping is the way of the future. Whether it is comparing pediatricians, local restaurants, or even — you guessed it — schools, online reviews play a bigger role in our lives than they ever have before.

That’s why your school needs to not only understand the importance of online reviews but also have a strategy for how to handle school reviews when they fall short of your five-star expectations.

woman dealing with negative school reviews

Tip #1 for Handling Negative Reviews: Don’t Panic!

Did your school just get a negative review? It can feel really frustrating and disheartening when someone shares a negative experience, but it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Do this: Look up your favorite local place. Maybe it’s a coffee shop, restaurant, or store.

Now go read their online reviews.

Chances are high that even though you’ve always had a wonderful experience there, someone else has left a one-star review about how that was one of the worst experiences they’ve ever had.

Reviews are subjective. School reviews are no exception.

Just because ONE person had a bad experience doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way.

Keep in mind that when prospective families are checking out online reviews, a single negative review isn’t likely to sway their minds.

We all, prospective parents included, understand that not every school is a great fit for every family and that sometimes a bad review is just an indicator of one bad day rather than a bad school.

Tip #2 for Handling Negative Reviews: Actually Listen

So what if your bad reviews are not just a one-off thing but are instead a common occurrence?

Then it’s time to find a pattern and acknowledge it.

If half of your reviews are complaining about a lack of communication from the school — or if all of your recent reviews share that their student experienced bullying with no administrative action — it’s time to get serious about fixing the problem.

two women looking at school reviews on laptop

While families are likely to accept that one or two negative reviews could be an anomaly, if the five most recent reviews reveal a pattern of common issues, it could be enough to have them searching for other options. 

The best way to address a pattern of negative school reviews?

Listen to them. And DO something to fix the issues at your school — right away.

Whether it’s customer service training for your front desk or a weekly newsletter to increase school communication, it’s important to show that you’re doing something about your reviewers’ concerns.

Tip #3 for Handling Negative Reviews: Respond Meaningfully

Just like a check engine light on your dashboard, negative reviews are an indicator that something isn’t quite right. Ignoring early indicators of a malfunction can lead to much bigger problems in the future.

Whether it feels like it in the moment or not, getting feedback — even negative — is a good thing.

It gives you insight into what your families are experiencing as well as an opportunity to demonstrate to future families how well your school handles parent complaints. Ignoring quality negative reviews is not a strategy that will help you in the long run.

Responding to families who leave accurate negative feedback is important to do well. Here’s how you should go about it:

  • Acknowledge where you’ve dropped the ball
  • Apologize for the problem caused
  • Explain how you’re moving forward to repair the damage caused

The “acknowledge, apologize, and repair” methodology is a great framework to use when responding to accurate negative feedback, but you do need to keep in mind that schools are bound by certain privacy laws, so discussing specifics related to a student is best left off the review site.

In those situations, respond by apologizing for the negative experience and offering to chat with them offline about their concerns.

In the rare case you get a truly inappropriate, inflammatory, or illegal review, follow Google’s reporting process to hide it from your profile:

how to report and remove google reviews of your school

The same applies to the other major platforms on which your school can receive reviews — Niche and GreatSchools.

Tip #4 for Handling Negative Reviews: Get More Reviews

While it may seem counterintuitive to ask for MORE reviews when you’re facing negativity, the only real solution to a negative review is to outnumber it with more positive reviews.

Prospective families will often look at only the most recent reviews, and if a negative one is one of them, they’ll almost certainly see it. The only solution is to get MORE positive reviews to push it down on the page — ultimately, pushing it off the front page entirely.

You can ask your current and former families to leave honest reviews in a variety of ways:

  • In emails, especially one-on-one emails
  • By sending (or mailing) home a flyer
  • On your school website or blog
  • At your drop-off/pick-up lines
  • At PTO meetings
  • At school events

By asking families you believe are engaged and happy with your school, you’ll increase the likelihood of getting quality, positive reviews.

You can even help them out by giving them an idea of what review would be most helpful to the school, like, “We think other parents of kids like Mercedes would love to hear about her success in the robotics program.”

By providing requested context for reviews, you not only ensure you’ll get something qualitative rather than just a simple star rating but you can also help to shape the narrative about what it is that makes your school special!

Tip #5 for Handling Negative Reviews: Claim Your Online Review Accounts — and Monitor Them

You can’t respond to reviews if you don’t know they exist.

This is why it is incredibly important to claim your online accounts and monitor them appropriately. It’s an easy and simple process to claim your accounts on the most common review sites, and it can have a big impact on your reviews strategy.

For schools, platforms like Google, Facebook, Niche, and GreatSchools are the most impactful review sites — but don’t neglect other sites as well!

For instance, if teacher recruitment is on your mind, check out your school’s Glassdoor profile to see what current and previous employees are sharing.

teacher sitting at desk and drinking coffee

If all you have is one negative review, that’s the only narrative that potential teachers see. 

Encourage employees to leave HONEST, qualitative reviews on platforms like Glassdoor. And like I discussed previously, make sure you actually take note of the areas for improvement rather than pretending they don’t exist.

School Reviews Strategy Takeaways

Ultimately, the takeaway here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get negative reviews. After all, you know you can’t reasonably make everyone happy all of the time. Sometimes people aren’t pleased with an outcome even when you did the right, fair thing to remedy the situation.

What you CAN do is respond to negative school reviews appropriately and ensure that the good outweighs the bad.

So what does this mean for you and your school?

You need to ask your parents for qualitative reviews and feedback often, especially if you know your parents are happy with what you’re doing at the school.

While you can’t know what your parents are saying at the neighborhood block party, you can monitor and respond to the problems they raise in online reviews.

These reviews give invaluable insight into the experience you’re actually providing your families rather than what you hope you’re doing.

A negative review can certainly feel damaging in the moment, but if you follow these tips and tricks you can move on from the temporary setback of a one-star review to the action steps to address it and get more positive feedback in the future!

SchoolMint Engage can help you with this!

Our platform offers online reputation management.

When you partner with SchoolMint Engage, we’ll gather qualitative reviews from your families, showcase the best of those reviews on a tailor-made enrollment microsite, and work to increase your school’s website in search results.

Do you have a strategy for dealing with negative school reviews? Or is it something you always thought was an unfortunate, inescapable reality?

Let’s discuss it in the comments below!



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