Learn how not to handle online reviews for your business. Today’s consumers are savvy shoppers who research, research, research. And most of that research is done online, before you ever get a chance to talk to your potential customer.

Where’s one of the first places they’re looking for information? They’re checking out your online reviews. Consumers trust online reviews and treat them just like personal recommendations from someone they know. Good reviews, bad reviews and downright ugly ones are out there. And if they’re out there, your customers are going to find them.

That’s a scary thought, to be sure. But, the truth is, online reviews can be your best friend – if you ignore all the terrible advice floating around about them. Don’t be fooled. Online reviews play an important role in helping customers choose which business they want to deal with. On the same note, they also help businesses streamline their operations by offering services that meet and surpass the expectations of their clients.

Here’s some of the worst advice we’ve ever heard regarding online reviews:

“You should just ignore bad reviews.”

Uh. No.

First of all, online reviews provide your company with a wealth of insight. Pay attention to bad reviews and you’ll be able to pinpoint where you might be falling short. No business is perfect, and chances are you could use some improvement. If you ignore your online reviews, you’re ignoring valuable advice from your customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Take a walk around your business just like your customers would and try to understand the processes and steps involved in your service or product offering so you can offer the highest standards of services.

“You shouldn’t respond to online reviews.”

Wrong again.

Regardless of whether you get a shining review or a terrible one, you need to respond. If you get a great review, take the time to thank your awesome customer for being a fan of your business. It’s a time to build your relationship and connect on a one-on-one level with someone who could be potential repeat business. For bad reviews, you still need to respond. The first thing you need to do is apologize and let the customer know that you’re committed to helping turn the situation around in whatever way you can.

What you definitely do not want to do? Absolutely never (ever, ever) get defensive with a customer. “The customer is always right” isn’t always true, but your customer doesn’t need to know that. Being defensive when dealing with negative online reviews won’t do anyone good. Don’t try to justify your side or argue with the reviewer. Instead, acknowledge their concern and that you understand they didn’t have a positive experience. Try and address the legitimate concerns raised by the reviewer and correct any incorrect information they may have in the politest way possible.

“Never respond to negative reviews publicly.”

There are some (keyword: some) situations where it’s appropriate to respond to negative reviews privately. For example, if your customer’s personal privacy is at stake. But in most situations, it’s best to respond to negative reviews publicly.

This is your chance to show future customers who stumble on this bad review that you took the time to improve the situation. You care about every customer, and you take customer issues seriously. It’s your chance to show that world that you can turn even the angriest customers into delighted ones. Who knows? Maybe that disappointed customer will be so thrilled that you helped them, they’ll change their review to 5 stars.

“Just delete your bad reviews.”

This is possibly the worst advice we’ve ever heard about online reviews. Many review sites, such as Google and Yelp, won’t even let you delete reviews.

But even if given the option to delete, don’t do it. The second you delete a bad review, you run the risk of that customer coming back, realizing you deleted their review, and leaving another, even more horrendous review.

Also, if you just delete all your bad reviews, you’re missing out on the chance to provide great customer service and look like a total rockstar. Don’t make a bad situation worse by deleting your negative reviews.

Online reviews come in different forms; some are positive, some are angry, ugly things. The way you handle reviews bad and good can make or break your brand. So push through all the bad advice and own your reviews. Show your future customers just how committed to customer service your company is.