According to a survey of over 6,000 shoppers from PowerReviews, online ratings and reviews now trump price, free shipping, and recommendations from family and friends as the most important factor impacting purchasing decisions. A walloping 98% of consumers consider reviews an essential resource when evaluating a purchase, which represents a nine-point jump from 2018. But what if the reviews on your website don't show the best side of your business and products?

For the sake of your business' reputation and long-term viability, you'll need to learn how to deal with negative reviews online.

Consumers seek out negative reviews.

Consumers aren't merely looking at the most recent reviews or the wittiest commentary. In fact, PowerReviews found that 96% of consumers specifically look for negative reviews. More than half seek out one-star reviews.

Like it or not—fair or not—online reviews are valuable currency in today's marketplace. The presence of negative reviews online can have a damaging and potentially far-reaching impact on your business. Not only is the one-star or two-star reviewer unlikely to visit your shop again, but digital platforms like Yelp, Google, or Facebook arm those disgruntled individuals with a megaphone to broadcast their thoughts and shape others' perceptions of your business.

Take control of your business' reputation.

As hard as we might try, it's impossible to please everyone. But how do we turn the negative online reviews into something positive?

Start by acknowledging the power online ratings possess to influence prospective customers. Online review management systems provide a streamlined way to monitor your online reviews so that you have a clear picture of your business' performance and customer sentiment. Armed with that data, you can take earnest, proactive steps to rebound, recover, and recharge your business, especially with those customers who've offered unfavorable critiques.

While no business owner wants to see a negative review, these messages aren't all bad. In fact, they can build your credibility with prospective customers, open a door to rebuilding trust with a disappointed customer, and create opportunities to strengthen your business.

Here are three important steps you can take to control your online reputation and turn negative reviews into something positive and fulfilling.

1. Don't run from the negativity.

Why do nine out of 10 consumers seek out negative reviews when researching a business or product? For many consumers, negative reviews provide a more balanced and complete look at a business and help to set expectations. Surprisingly, they can help you build trust with prospective customers since a business with only glowing reviews can inspire some skepticism.

Much as you might want to scrub a negative review from the digital world or fire off a strongly worded message to Yelp to remove a customer's comment, take a moment of pause and check that urge. If the majority of your reviews are positive, a small number of one- or two-star reviews will actually lend some authenticity to your business.

2. Respond with poise.

When you encounter a negative review of your business, don't ignore it. Instead, face the review head-on by publicly responding to it. A quick, calm, and sincere response enables you to address a customer's dissatisfaction and potentially recover that customer. It also shows others perusing online reviews of your business that you're a responsive and caring customer-minded operation.

When responding, avoid taking a defensive tone. Acknowledge the customer's perceived problem. Assure them you want to rectify the situation and suggest a clear path forward, such as contacting you or a store leader via email or phone. This shows to customers and others you're committed to making things right, increasing your credibility in their eyes.

3. Accept negative reviews as a learning opportunity.

Online reviews, particularly those with less-than-stellar feedback, can serve as learning opportunities for retail operations. By understanding customer displeasure, you can tighten training, processes, and operations to ensure your business is delivering more relevant and pleasant experiences to your current and future customers. This will drive improved customer service and better results.

Keep an eye on online reviews.

Given the power online reviews wield in today's marketplace, it's increasingly important that retailers monitor online chatter about their stores—something easily accomplished with an online review management platform.

By tracking digital rumblings from Yelp, Facebook, and their online review brethren, you can better understand customer perceptions of your business and learn how to deal with negative reviews online. This will help you rectify the experiences of dissatisfied customers, gain insights to improve your business and strengthen your reputation in the marketplace.

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