It's a small business owner's worst nightmare: a disgruntled customer lashes out with a negative review online. Dry your tears, log on to your computer and use these steps to begin managing bad business reviews to mitigate the fallout and continue to run your business smoothly.

Investigate the Complaint First

Before taking any of the steps outlined below for managing bad business reviews, it's important to investigate the claim made by the unhappy customer. The worst thing business owners can do in such circumstances is to assume their firm is doing a terrific job and move on without addressing the problem.

Immediately investigate the complaint no matter how small, slight or silly it seems. If the complaint is valid, take immediate steps to rectify it. Address poor service, broken products or late shipments by improving processes, training and hiring.

Ask for customer input. If one customer complains about an issue, others may have also experienced it. A thorough investigation into the nature of a complaint helps resolve the situation and improve your business.

3 Steps to Manage Bad Reviews

Once you've confirmed the validity of a review, take positive action through the following three steps:

  1. Apologize: Many companies hesitate to apologize, fearing that it makes them appear weak. On the contrary, customers often respond well to an honest apology and look favorably on firms who apologize for mistakes. Keep apologies straight and to the point without justification or excuses.
  2. Fix the problem: Offer unhappy customers a solution to their problems. Do they want a replacement? A credit? Do what you can to make them happy and turn the situation from negative to positive. It often only takes a small action on a business's part to change a customer's mind from negative to positive.
  3. Remain professional: When responding online to negative reviews left on public websites, keep your comments brief, tactful and professional. Although you may be upset at having your business criticized publicly, the situation can escalate quickly if you get into an argument with the reviewer.

What Not to Do

Now that you know the positive steps to take for managing bad business reviews, it's important to keep in mind potential mistakes to avoid. For example, arguing or defending poor behavior can come across as defensive. Flooding a review site with fake positive messages to push down a bad review may be tempting, but it could come across as dishonest and violate the review site's terms of use, as Entrepreneur notes. Lastly, pretending a bad review doesn't exist won't solve the problem; be sure to address the complaint.

You've worked hard to build your small business, so don't let that one negative review get you down. Take action today to manage bad reviews and keep up the great work you do.

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