We have a client whose livelihood is public speaking. He is very knowledgeable about certain topics and has been hired to give speeches across the country. He has a website that promotes his services. He is also someone who has gotten involved in local politics, attending local government meetings, writing letters, campaigning for certain candidates, etc. Eventually, he felt compelled to run for the local school board himself and won. As an active local public figure over many years, he has developed friends and enemies.

Several years ago, an anonymous website appeared that was primarily dedicated to trashing him. He ignored it, thinking that the person would tire of it and go away. However, this person persisted and posted so frequently, that eventually, that website rose in the search engine rankings above his own website. All of this affected his business of public speaking and eventually he had to hire a reputation management company to assist him with rebuilding his online brand and reputation.

This is an extreme example; very few people are going to go to the effort of creating a website to express their opinions about your company. But it is very easy to post a review of your business online, whether it is on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or your own Facebook page. We all wish and hope for good reviews, but once in a while a bad one might come through, and bad reviews are not something you should ignore.

How should you respond to a bad review? While negative online reviews feel personal and hurtful, there is often valuable feedback to be gained. First, remove the need to defend or combat the review. Someone took the time to offer you input, and lessons can be learned, even if you don’t appreciate their method of delivery. Is there some truth to their comment? Do reviews indicate unresponsive or rude customer-service representatives? Perhaps some staff training is needed. If reviewers are complaining that your business establishment is dirty, maybe you need to hire a new cleaning service.

It is important, however, that you do not engage in public battles with customers online. While it is natural and tempting to defend your position, a back and forth online argument is not a pretty sight and could end up damaging your business’ reputation more than the original bad review. Instead, publicly respond, so that potential customers can see your involvement, apologize, and encourage customers to contact you offline so you can resolve the issue to their satisfaction. You may be pleased with the results and you’ll be showing other viewers that you care and are trying to correct the issue.

After reaching out to someone who has given you a negative review, the reviewer may feel differently about your business and they may update their review and make it more positive, based on your interaction. If negative reviews don’t get edited, it’s okay. Take the initiative to reach out to other clients to get positive reviews to counteract the negative.

The way you respond to a review is an opportunity for you to show your customers that you respond to any concerns and you are passionate about your business and want to ensure customer satisfaction. Stay engaged with your customers and respond to reviews as soon as you get them, good or bad, and you may find yourself gaining more respect from customers, and ultimately, driving more sales.