Your small business has a profile on Yelp! Your Facebook fans are leaving reviews on your social media feed. And, customers are actually using your custom hashtag on Twitter. Excellent!

But, what happens when a grumpy troll leaves a scathing review and bad-mouths your business? Do negative reviews hurt small businesses? Yes!

Since small businesses only receive a handful of reviews each day (or week!) they don’t have as many positive comments to crowd out the negative remarks — like the multi-billion dollar corporations do!

How Consumers View Online Reviews

With people increasingly shopping and socializing online, it’s no surprise that they cling to consumer reviews to gain insight into the products and services they’re researching.

Did you know that 89 percent of online consumers feel that online reviews are trustworthy? And they trust them so much, that four out of five buyers will change their purchasing decision based on negative information found online. Wow!

So, what can you do about these upset customers? Face them head-on. But, do it nicely.

Publicly address their concerns, educate them and if needed, apologize for the situation they encountered. Your positive response is enough to make other consumers realize you’re really not all that bad — and even courageous for jumping into the fire pit with an angry person.

“More nasty or negative comments will have a worse impact than professional and polite explanation of the problem. Therefore, when responding to reviews on complaints, professionalism and positive language is very important,” Eric Thomas, Brand Manager for Brandme writes on Social Media Today.

Making Lemonade from Lemon Reviews

After responding to the messages, it’s time to suck up your pride and really read what the negative reviews are saying. Of course, pay no attention to the person who thinks it’s crazy you don’t deliver to houses three hours away from the restaurant or who were upset that they couldn’t use six coupons on one item. You will never make them happy.

But, when the negative reviews address issues that you can actually follow-up on and make improvements to, hear the reviewer out, even if their approach isn’t exactly kind. Did their online order arrived damaged? Maybe it’s time to review the packing and shipping method you use. Was the customer service associate rude on the phone? Maybe it’s time for some staff training or to record calls and monitor the situation.  

Remember, people like to complain when they’re frustrated. Their stories are often over dramatized and embellished due to their emotions. Strip away the fluff and pay attention to what your customers want. Those lemon reviews might actually be helpful in building your brand in the long run!

Angela is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. She also writes about content marketing and working online at Web Writing Advice. Angela was ranked in the Yahoo! Top 1000 Writers from 2009-2013.