Our industry thrives on customer referrals and positive reports to build clientele and increase revenue. It is often said that the best form of advertising, especially in the beauty biz, is word-of-mouth.

Positive online reviews can drive your business, providing excellent word-of-mouth marketing. Conversely, negative reviews can hurt your business, causing you to lose potential clients and revenue. At some point every salon owner is going to come face-to-face with negative online reviewers, but it does not have to be doomsday for your salon or spa. Negative reviews can equal critical feedback for improving the way you run your salon. Be objective, and think of it as constructive criticism.

Not if, but when, you experience negative online reviews, below are some practical tools that will help you emerge in a positive light.

1. Do not ignore it. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away; in fact, it can make it worse in some cases. You want potential customers who read reviews to see that you are actively trying to satisfy dissatisfied customers.

2. Do not argue. Being defensive will only make you look bad. Even if the statements are false or erroneous, be sincere in your responses and stick to the facts. Remember, people who read reviews are also reading your responses. Your responses will reflect your character and business ethics.

3. Respond promptly. Responses to negative reviews should come from the owner or manager, a person in authority who has the power to do something to correct the situation. You should be sincere, and invite the reviewer to contact you directly to discuss further. Sometimes, people simply want to be heard.

4. Rectify the situation. In your response, you should be specific about how you plan to resolve the issues raised.

5. Ask the negative reviewer to write another review. If you were able to come to an understanding, and talk the reviewer into giving you another shot at satisfying her, ask if she would be willing to submit a follow-up review discussing her most recent experience. If you did what you were supposed to and provided her with excellent customer service then she will likely be more than happy to oblige.

Negative client feedback can be the best form of learning how to improve customer service. Remember, it is our failures that make us great, not our successes. So listen, assess, and use the opportunity to learn from negative reviews to improve upon your business.

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