By Evan Nierman, founder & CEO of Red Banyan, an international crisis communications firm, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.

Reviews can make or break a business, but whether the effect is good or bad hinges on how the business owner reacts. Learning to navigate a complex maze of positive and negative comments can be tricky business. Say the wrong thing and your problems get worse. But finesse a difficult situation with the right words in the right tone and you might hit a home run with winning results.

In a world fueled by the real-time impacts of social media, online reviews have become the building blocks of a company’s reputation. Good reviews shine a positive light on a business, helping it retain old customers and attract new ones, while bad reviews can scare off new customers and make existing ones feel uneasy. Add to this perilous landscape blatantly unfair reviews and “fake reviews” and the challenge of protecting your company’s online reputation becomes even more difficult.

Learning how to make the best of bad reviews and be appreciative of the good ones has become an essential part of doing business. But gauging the best way to respond to reviews in ways that are most beneficial to your online reputation can be problematic.

Online Image Matters

No matter what you think of customer reviews, it is important to understand the profound impact they can have on your business. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of U.S. adults say they read online customer reviews at least some of the time before buying items for the first time, while 40% always or almost always read reviews before purchasing something online.

In fact, 53% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 47% of 30- to 49-year-olds say they always or almost always read online reviews when buying something for the first time, Pew Research says. Approximately 34% of adults ages 50 to 64 and 23% of those 65 and older consistently check reviews before shopping for items online, statistics show.

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What’s more, approximately one in 10 Americans nearly always posts personal reviews on products, restaurants and services. In addition, a Pew Research survey showed that 39% of U.S. adults share their consumer experiences on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The takeaway is clear: reviews matter and should never be ignored.

Positive Spin Will Win

Good or bad, all reviews merit some kind of response. Engaging with your customers shows that you are paying attention to what they say and are interested in retaining their business. Consumers have many choices these days and are more likely to remain loyal if a company takes note of their input, whether it is positive or negative.

Even if you believe a comment is unwarranted or unfair, try spinning your response so it has a positive slant. Thank the customer for their feedback, acknowledge their unhappiness and do your best to correct their problem.

Always focus on solutions—never excuses—and work to remedy a situation instead of shifting the blame. Provide an authentic and non-confrontational response for the best result. You may even earn the dissatisfied customer’s respect and loyalty.

Be Proactive

Reviews are opportunities. A bad review is a chance to shine and build even stronger customer relationships. A good review is a chance to cement an alliance with a loyal customer.

Bad reviews are the result of a problem, so it is on you to fix whatever is amiss if you want to stop the negative comments.

4 Ways To Handle Negative Customer Reviews

  1. Acknowledge the problem.
  2. Apologize for any inconvenience and request a chance to make it right.
  3. Offer a solution.
  4. Follow up with the customer.

Savvy business owners can also drown out the bad reviews with good ones. But this can only be done if the business owner makes a concerted effort to correct the issues that are sparking the negative reviews and then encourages customers to post positive reviews when their customer experience is good.

It is also important to note that companies with only positive reviews could be viewed as too good to be true. Businesses with some negative reviews may be viewed as more credible and authentic, which helps build trust with customers. Negative reviews may give consumers an idea of a worst-case scenario, providing perspective.

Learning to take the good with the bad and find solutions, when necessary, can help your business retain loyal customers and add new ones if your responses are authentic.

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