You've poured your heart and soul into building a business you can be proud of when someone slams you with an online review that makes your palms sweat and your temper soar.
Let's face it, customer feedback isn't always positive in nature and can be downright painful to hear. However, knowing what your customers think is an invaluable part of improving your business and making it the best it can be.
About 74 percent of local businesses have one or more Google reviews. People pay attention to reviews no matter what type of business they're buying from and may even give an online review the same weight as a recommendation from someone they know.
In an ideal world, all feedback would be positive, and people would sing your praises. However, we don't live in an ideal world, and you're sure to tick off at least one or two people in the process of doing business.
Here are some ideas for how to take feedback well, even when the words aren't something you cared to read.
Sift Through the Negative Words
You've probably heard that the art of communication requires listening to what the other person has to say. This is difficult if the words attack you.
However, there is usually some kernel of truth to be had from the criticism, and if you take the time to dig into the complaint, you'll find the heart of the issue and perhaps something you can do to fix things.
If you spend a lot of time trying to make sure your business is the best it can be, negative words may upset you at first. It's easy to go on the defensive and want to tell the other person why they're wrong.
However, you'll get a lot more out of the feedback if you walk away from your computer and calm down. Come back with a fresh perspective and look at the words again.
Can you learn anything from what is there? Maybe between the insults is a grain of truth and something on which you can improve as a business owner?
Respond to Negative Reviews
Customers expect to hear back from a company when they post a negative review. In one survey, 80 percent of consumers felt more positive toward a brand that responded to their negative review.
However, it's also important to consider how you respond to a negative review. For example, a passive-aggressive response that puts the blame back on the customer isn't going to appease them and will make you look uncaring to others reading the review and any comments on the review.
Find Feedback From Your Audience
There are numerous places people can post online reviews about your brand. While Google is a popular choice, they can also review your page on Facebook or any number of review sites.
Enlist the help of a service such as Talkwalker to figure out when people mention your business name online. Regularly check sites such as Yelp, Google, Facebook, and local review sites for mentions of your brand. People may also turn to Twitter and Instagram to lodge a complaint.
About 53 percent of restaurant patrons find a new restaurant through a review site. What are your customers saying about you? Can you respond in a positive way that shows you want to make things right?
If so, they may be more likely to give you a second chance in the future. Other people reading the reviews will also see that you're striving toward improvement.
Watch Overall Ratings
When looking for a new place to do business with, about 40 percent of people use a rating filter that throws out any options with an overall review rating under a certain number. If your overall rating number drops significantly, then you risk losing out in search results.
While you shouldn't live and die by your reviews, the overall number does matter. If you see your number creeping down from a five out of five toward a three, it's time to take action.
Reach out to those who left you negative reviews and ask them what you can do to make things right. Never ask anyone to change or delete their review as it makes you look shady, but some might of their own accord when they see improvement.
Ask your regular, happy customers to write reviews for you. A few five-star reviews help counteract the lower reviews.
Utilize Reputation Management
Even though company leaders feel online reputation matters, only 13 percent actively manage their online reputations. If your reviews sink low enough, you may need to enlist the help of a professional.
Look for someone who doesn't use shady tactics. Beefing up your numbers by posting fake reviews will come back to bite you, for example. Look for someone who uses smart tactics, such as moving positive reviews higher in search engine results or asking your customers for positive reviews.
Put a Negative Review in Perspective
A negative review stings. You've likely worked hard to make sure your business is the absolute best it can be. It's almost like someone criticized your baby and called it ugly.
However, you have to put a negative review or two in perspective. It is the opinion of one or two people. While you should pay attention and make any changes needed, don't let a negative review define your business or your attitude.
Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.