Nowadays, there are a lot of ways customers can let you know how they feel about your business. In the best cases, you may get an awesome shout-out on Yelp or Facebook.

But then, there’s the flip side: An unhappy customer can blast your company online. When someone leaves a negative review of your business, your gut reaction might be to sweep it under the rug or to fight back. However, those responses won’t win you any points in the long run. In fact, they can turn one negative review into a much bigger problem.

And as we’ve written about before, your reputation online matters. In Bryan Kramer’s appearance on The Growth Lab Show, he talks about the incredible opportunity businesses have when it comes to interacting and engaging with their customers online, especially in the area of your online reputation. You can learn a lot from customer feedback online. And by responding to that feedback, you can potentially salvage a customer relationship and win prospective customers over.

But, how? Your best bet is to take the following approach when responding to reviews.

Own Up to Your Mistakes

There is no such thing as a perfect person, and therefore, there is no such thing as a perfect business. A time will come when you make an error and someone calls you out about it.

So, what’s the trick to responding to reviews like this? First, take a deep breath. Then, own up to it. Respond publicly, right on the initial post, so that others who have seen the review also see that you’re taking the time to address it.

Don’t try to make excuses or turn it around on the customer; take ownership of your business’s mistakes. It’s likely that once the poster cools down and sees that you’re taking their complaint seriously, they’ll step back and realize that we’re all only human and that you’re doing your best to make things right.

And if you don’t feel your business made a mistake, take a minute to read the review and try to understand why the customer felt the way they did. Customers want to feel heard and understood, so arguing with them about what happened or why you’re in the clear is only going to escalate the situation. It’s best in these scenarios to take the interaction offline, which usually still includes apologizing for their experience.

Be Genuine

We’ve all experienced a time when we were upset and were offered insincere concern from someone, right? And I’m sure that kind of reaction only made you angrier, right?

It’s easy to feel defensive if someone is criticizing your business, and your gut reaction might be to dismiss their concerns. But before you respond, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes.

You don’t know what else is going on in their life that may be playing a factor in how upset they are about the issue with your business. When you think about it that way, it’s easier to respond with genuine concern and compassion.

To summarize, make sure that you’re responding to reviews in a way that acknowledges the issue, validates the other person’s feelings, and offers to make things right.

Don’t Let It Linger

When responding to reviews, you also have to consider timeframe. Letting a bad review sit unanswered for days or weeks only lets your unhappy customer’s resentment build. Plus, it gives anyone else who stumbles upon the review the sense that you don’t really care about the issue since you haven’t bothered to respond.

Social media moves quickly, so it’s best to get a response to a negative review out within the first 24 hours. Any longer than that, and people will start to read negative intent into your silence.

Reach Out Directly

The final step in responding to reviews, which comes after you’ve publicly acknowledged your goof and offered to fix the problem, is to reach out to the customer personally. Send them an email or give them a call, apologizing again and offering to make things right.

This signals to them that you’re serious about solving their problem ““ you weren’t just trying to save face on social media or Yelp. This added touch can sometimes be the thing that turns their feelings around.

While negative reviews can seem like a burden, when handled correctly they can be a great way to show how much you sincerely care about your customers. By responding to reviews quickly, listening intently, and offering solutions, you can not only regain trust with the upset customer; you can also win over others who happen upon the interaction online.

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