Let’s face it – negative reviews happen. A customer has a bad experience with your business and posts about it on your Facebook, Yelp, or Google+ page for all the world to see. Now what?

You might panic and feel tempted to defend your employees, products and services — or worse, delete your page altogether. But remember this: At the end of the day, your customers want to be heard. So what’s a business owner to do? Embrace it!

That’s right; negative reviews are gifts in disguise. They present a unique opportunity to show your audience how you recover from a mistake. Do it well and you’ll build a stronger relationship with the customer, while also showcasing your superior customer service to onlookers.

Now, we know what you’re thinking – HOW do you do it well? Adhere to the following tips:

Address every review – positive and negative.

We get it, you work hard to make your business successful. So when the “never satisfied customer” leaves an unfavorable review due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s normal to feel a bit rattled.

As Jay Baer states in his new book Hug Your Haters, “Customer Service is a spectator sport… one-third of all customer complaints go unanswered, most of them online and in public.” Don’t let complaints go unanswered. Take a step back and understand the problem at hand – then reply. Did you know that 90 percent of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews? Out of those 90 percent, we’re willing to bet that a good chunk, if not all, are looking to see if the business has replied.

But don’t get defensive.

If you are in the wrong, apologize, and do your best to rectify the situation. If the review is dishonest, politely and truthfully share your side of the story. Whatever you do,  don’t jump on the defensive side.  For the sake of your business’ reputation and the happiness of your customer, accept accountability when appropriate.

Consider moving the conversation offline.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, an unhappy customer is just that, unhappy. Perhaps they’re projecting their anger, or maybe they’re just plain rude. Whatever the case, it’s still wise to craft a public (and polite) response that shifts the conversation offline. Supply a phone number they may call or send a private message to inquire about their contact information. This way, other users can see what transpired – but you can deal with any unruliness behind the scenes.

Exude great customer service.

While not mandatory, excellent customer service is what top brands capitalize on. Consider this: A review was left on a local restaurant’s Yelp page. The eatery proudly boasts a near-perfect rating across all social media – including Yelp. It also happens to be in an area with strict parking rules. Recently, a customer left a review letting everyone know how great the food was and that it was her favorite place for apps and drinks, but she parked in the wrong spot and got a $100 ticket.  She not only included this in her feedback, but also deducted a few stars because of the mishap. Is the restaurant responsible for the parking fine? Of course not. But the owner wowed the patron by quickly addressing the Yelp review, apologizing, offering to pay the ticket, AND giving her a $100 gift card to come back. The customer was AMAZED by this interaction, and the review was magically removed and ultimately changed.

This is customer service in 2016. Consumers don’t have to wait on hold to voice their displeasure. They take to social media to release their frustrations, and they expect fast responses. When it comes to your brand’s reputation, remember that every story is out in the open — and deeply consider the long-term consequences of your reaction.

If you need help managing your online reputation, contact Ferocious Media today to speak with us about our central command toolbox offering or social media marketing services.