To a business owner, a one-star Yelp rating or an unfavorable TripAdvisor review can feel like a punch in the gut. You know what? It’s okay to feel that way. But don’t forget to take reviews for what they are: as valuable feedback given by customers who have objectively identified your weak points and the areas in which you can improve.

That’s why it’s so important to not lose your cool after receiving a bad online review. Your reviewer’s words may actually help you gain key insights that will make your business better – that will help you fix whatever the issues are. Maybe a bad review will make you realize it takes a little bit too long for your kitchen staff to serve food. Or that your receptionist hasn’t been trained well enough. Or that one of your hotel rooms really does smell like cigarette smoke. Whatever the problems of your customers are, you won’t know until you monitor online reviews and listen to what they’re saying.

Bad reviews make you look real. Sure, no one wants to end up being the business owner whose profile page on Yelp or Google+ Local is littered with negative comments and low ratings. But it can be tricky being on the other side of the spectrum, too. If you’re receiving too many good reviews, if everything everyone has to say about your product or service is flattering and complimentary, your online review page actually runs the risk of looking – well, of looking fake.

Why has this suddenly become a problem? Because a lot of businesses have been caught posting fake reviews online. This is the reason why you don’t want to appear too good to be true. Besides, even the best-run businesses in the world are not perfect; they’ll have their own weak points that at any time can be the subject of a customer complaint or rant. So, in a way, a bad review can actually legitimize your business listing. And don’t worry: one bad apple won’t spoil the bunch.

Bad reviews make you more competitive. How? They provide you an opportunity to prove critics wrong. More importantly, they remind you to stay competitive. By monitoring online reviews – yours and that of your competitors – you get an idea of where you are and how well your business is doing. You can also look at aggregated ratings and analyze the data to see how you can gain an edge over your rivals.

Once you figure out what your issues are and what you can do to get better, then who knows? You may soon find yourself in lists like OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Awards, Best of Yelp, or TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, and other stamps of approval. Wouldn’t these be an awesome way to get the recognition you deserve?

Bad reviews offer an opportunity to turn critics into fans. One of the most challenging aspects of managing your online reputation is listening and responding to what your critics have to say. And while some may complain about the necessary existence of review sites and review aggregators, it will do you good to see these as platforms for changing the conversation about your business – and changing it for the better.

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