MISSOULA, Mont. -- Surveys show 97% of people read online reviews before buying goods or services last year.
That means businesses can't afford to ignore online feedback.
Dan Buchta is with the Better Business Bureau, and says even a negative review can become positive for a small business.
"Consumers now have the option of sharing their experiences, both good or bad, online. Whether it's on their favorite social media account or through a site like ours, where the number of complaints can affect how a business is rated. A complaint gives a business two opportunities: first, you are getting honest feedback on what your customers' expectations are. One small fix might make that customer happy again, and they will be more likely to visit your business again in the future. Second, you can distinguish your business from your competitors by how you respond to a complaint. Even the best businesses get complaints. What distinguishes them is how they work to resolve them, then learn and improve from them. When you respond, it gives your business credibility as one that will stop at nothing to get things right for the customer," said Buchta.
The Better Business Bureau recommends 5 easy steps:
Acknowledge - Some people just want to be heard and your acknowledgement is the first step.
Apologize - Say you are sorry. This is not an admission of guilt, but a common courtesy and what the customer wants to hear.
Analyze - Complaints contain insight. Listen to the customer's feedback and let them educate you.
Act - Respond quickly with a resolution.
Affirm - Check in with the customer to make sure they feel the issue has been resolved.
Online reviews are not always negative. The Better Business Bureau recommends responding to positive reviews as well.
"If someone pays your business a compliment, make sure to thank them and do it for everyone else to see," said Buchta.
You can find out more ways to improve and protect your business at bbb.org.