Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” The question then is, how do you make those unhappy experiences—mostly in the form of negative reviews—into learning opportunities for you and your business? 

Most of the time, online reviews are the most authentic form of feedback you can receive for your small business. Your customers might not feel comfortable expressing their happiness or disappointment with your product or service in person, so many of those people can and do leave feedback for you in the form of online reviews. 

If you want to improve your customer service techniques and grow a system for getting good reviews, there's a great way to accomplish that. The first step, of course, is taking a look at negative reviews, and trying to see them not as a personal attack, but a highlighter for areas where you can improve customer satisfaction.

In the case of complaints about poor service, imagine that some issues might be solved by better training your waitstaff or hiring new middle managers to handle staffing issues. If your location is difficult for customers to find, park at, or access, that’s a more complicated issue driven by cost of rent and your ability to move. To help with the issue, take a look at what can be done to improve your location, whether it be better signage, more parking options, or longer hours for your customers.

One important point Toister mentions is the 1:5 ratio—for every one negative review published online, you can assume that five people experienced the same issue. So two online complaints about poor service means that ten people likely experienced poor service, which makes it a bigger problem, and one you should address as soon as you can. 

The purpose of all this work is to create an action plan for improving your business and increasing your revenue. If you don’t fix the broken parts, your service can’t improve, resulting in less positive reviews and perhaps even less business as a result. Take time to implement changes that work for your business and solve the issues brought up in negative reviews.