How and when you respond to customers’ online reviews is a science that no business owner will ever truly master. But there are strategies that will help you avoid the type of meltdown that happened at Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. Have you heard about this social media debacle? It all started when the restaurant appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The episode captured plenty of outrageous and unethical behavior from the owners, which inevitably resulted in some negative online reviews. Rather than replying graciously or letting the negativity blow over, the owners ruthlessly responded to the comments. The more the owners lashed out, the more the public responded in kind. Check out Amy’s Baking Company on Yelp, and you’ll see a bunch of vicious reviews. And you’ll also see that the restaurant has permanently closed. According to the New York Times, more than 40% of Americans use Yelp to search for local restaurants and businesses. You simply can’t afford to let your negative reviews fester. Customers Expect a Quick Response The experts from ReviewTrackers recommend a proactive approach to brand reputation management. Their research indicates that more than 50% of customers expect to hear a response from a business within a week of posting their review. If you find that surprising, wait till you hear this next stat: 21% of customers expect you to respond to their review within 24 hours. The demands of the public can be daunting, but an important thing happens when you make an effort to address their feedback. Nearly 80% of consumers report that when a business responds to their online comments, it makes them feel like the business sincerely cares about them. Dealing with Negative Reviews While it can be downright enjoyable to respond to positive reviews, how do you tackle the negative ones? How do you avoid becoming the next Amy’s Baking Company? ReviewTrackers says a great place to start is by offering a solution. For example, a JetBlue passenger griped about his TV not working. The company’s impressively speedy response has become a shining example of how to address a complaint. An apology always goes a long way. Some business owners are reluctant to say they’re sorry, fearing it implies they were at fault. But it’s sometimes the most important thing that can be said. A hotel manager in Brisbane reacted to complaints from a guest by saying he was sorry, even though he acknowledged that his apology couldn't change the outcome of the situation. Ultimately, an online review is the perfect place for you to exemplify your company’s values. If customers leave you positive feedback, respond with kindness and demonstrate how their experiences fall right in line with the business you strive to run. On the other hand, when a customer has negative things to say, your reaction becomes even more poignant. Validate those feelings, clarifying details if necessary, but always remain above the negativity and name-calling. Staying classy shows your current customers, as well as future customers, just how committed you are to running a quality business that treats people right.