Most business owners have experienced the difficult moment when a customer gives a one-star or two-star review. You work hard to keep people happy ““ and if someone writes a bad review on a public site, it’s discouraging.

Even if it might seem easier to ignore the noise altogether, this approach will do more harm than good. It turns out 88% of consumers are just as likely to listen to online reviews as their close friends! As a result, building a flawless reputation online is one of the most surefire ways for businesses to turn searchers into customers. However, establishing a solid reputation requires a great deal of dedication and an actionable plan, plus best practices and the right mix of review management or online reputation tools.

Paying the right amount of attention to reviews can pay off in a big way for your business. If managed correctly, they can become your main line to communicate with customers, while simultaneous sending you shooting up the search engine rankings. Plus, if your business has several locations, you can often track which are performing best through the reviews you receive.

There are a lot of challenges when it comes to reviews, too: learning the ropes of how to best respond to negative or even lukewarm reviews can be a tricky bit of business. But here’s the interesting part: having a few negative reviews peppered alongside the (hopefully) endless number of positive ones has actually proven to help business’s online reputations rather than them. The reason? When customers see five stars across the board, they question the authenticity.

The key to confronting customers who leave negative reviews is striking the right balance between decorum and empathy. Don’t take things personally “” write back in a tactful manner and show that actually, genuinely care about each problem they’ve taken the time to outside. A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t say something in person, don’t say it online, either.

Time is of the essence

Every minute that passes after a review goes up is crucial. As one would expect, the longer a review sits online without a reply, the greater the risk that you’ll look bad for not taking the time to respond.

The easiest way to ensure no review slides under the radar is to set up notifications to go off each time someone new posts. Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp all have built-in capability to alert you when the time comes, but also check other directories you use for the same feature.

For some, however, having your phone ping each time a new review comes in can seem daunting. If such is the case, set up weekly reports instead “” just be sure to sit down and give them all due attention when the week is up. When you do sit down to reply, don’t be hasty. Fully digest what each person is saying or feeling as you carefully word out your response. If someone has said something that really grinds your gears, just take a deep breath, don’t take it personally and be as diplomatic as possible.

Three steps to success handling negative reviews:

1) Accept the criticism. If you’re at fault, don’t get defensive “” own up to it! Let the customer know you’re on their side and reassure them you get what they’re saying.

2) Assure them it won’t happen again. Commit to getting better by directly coming out against the criticism in question. If you’re calm in your response, it will have a calming effect on the customer in question as well, and they will be happier when a resolution is reached. Plus, if you dismantle the situation well, others will see it and be positively influenced.

3) Offer a solution to the problem. It’s not enough, however, to just say it won’t happen again. You have to be proactive in finding ways to back up said claim. Present multiple ways to “fix” the problem, including assigning the right individual from your team to talk directly with the customer in question and hammer out a realistic solution one-to-one offline.

By and large – people are more willing to throw caution to the wind behind a computer screen and a username, so even though a situation may seem dire and endlessly frustrating, it’s not the end of the world. Negative reviews come with the territory of owning a business, so handle with care and you’ll do well.

It’s crucial to listen to your customers, as they’re the most important part of the equation to making your business succeed “” more than ads, strategy, traffic, all of it. Respect their opinions and they’ll show you the same respect in kind.

Contact our experts to see how you can benefit from LOCALiQ’s reputation management tools.