If you’ve been pouring your heart and soul—not to mention every waking moment—into your business, receiving a bad review can feel like a slap in the face. Worse, it can impact your bottom line.

But 101 Management, Inc., wants you to know that a negative review—whether on social media or on one of the many popular review sites—needn’t spell disaster. Here are 10 ways to handle a rant by a unsatisfied customer.

  1. Don’t panic

No product or service gets five-star reviews from everyone. If you don’t believe us, check out the reviews of anything offered on Amazon. Even if a book or movie or whatever receives an overwhelming number of four- and five-star comments, there will always be a number of one- or two-star reviews, along with logical, well-supported reasons why the reviewers gave such a low rating.

  1. Stop and think

When facing criticism, it’s natural to become defensive. But if someone has taken the time to post a negative review (most people don’t bother), ask yourself if they have a legitimate complaint. None of us is perfect, and the commenter may have good reason to be upset. If so, that’s your cue to figure out a way to correct it.

  1. Take a deep breath

Especially if a review has a snippy or sarcastic or even a downright nasty tone, it’s natural to want to respond in kind. But as a businessperson you can never afford to sound like a troll. You must always be the adult in the room, and frame your response as politely as possible.

  1. Respond quickly

Don’t cogitate so long, however, that dozens or hundreds or thousands of people have the opportunity to read and absorb the negative comment(s), without also being able to see your response.

  1. Always respond

Never let a negative review stand without at least some acknowledgement. Often, simply letting a customer know he’s been heard is enough to defuse his anger. And be sure to thank them for taking time to comment.

  1. Begin with an apology

“We’re so sorry that you had a negative experience with our product/service.” Then either explain (“Unfortunately, that product line has been discontinued, but we invite you to try this other product that many of our customers have said performs even better.”) or let them know you’re taking steps to correct the complaint (“In light of your comment, we are revising our methods of training/scheduling/shipping,” etc.).

Again, this not only makes the customer feel heard, but demonstrates to other readers on the site that yours is a business that takes seriously the importance of customer service. If there’s nothing you can do about a customer’s complaint, say so (politely), and ask that they give you another chance.

  1. Go private

If a customer’s complaint will require a lengthy response, invite her to contact you privately, while reassuring her you will make every effort to resolve the issue. Review sites and such public forums as social media threads aren’t the place for long, involved communications.

  1. Try to make it right

If it was something that can’t be undone—a bad meal or unsatisfying massage, for example—explain the steps you’ve taken to prevent a recurrence, then offer a refund. If it’s something you’re not willing or able to change—the price of your service or the location of your store, for instance—then say so (politely) and apologize again.

In addition, if you can satisfy a disgruntled customer, they will often go back on the site and revise their earlier comment.

  1. Solicit feedback

Never ask for positive reviews (this can violate the terms of service of a number of review sites), but at the same time do ask for customer feedback on your social media pages and website, receipts, and physical place of business, if you have one. Most people who review and comment will have positive things to say, which will help counteract (and outnumber) any complaints.

  1. Look on the bright side

If all you receive are five-star ratings from everyone, people will become suspicious that either you or someone you’re paying is writing fake reviews. A few negative reviews lend credibility to the more positive comments posted.

For more tips on how to effectively manage your brand, be sure to consult our experts at 101 Management, Inc. We have many ways to show you how to cultivate strong audience relationships.