By Kevin D. Johnson, Jr.

Yelp!, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are some of the names that can either separate you from the pack or put your business in the back of the line.  These days a large percentage of people determine their spending habits based on online reviews.  Companies end up at the mercy of the customer’s post. With this in mind it behooves all small businesses to always try and put their best foot forward–or fall victim to the world of low ratings and negative comments.

There are times when negative comments are unwarranted. However, mistakes do happen and when they occur the onus is on the business to address the issue and take good care of the customer or client.  This might entail providing discounts, giving something extra or even providing something free.  Some business owners might see this as taking a loss, but you could be on the road to building brand loyalty depending upon the type of person you are servicing at the time.  There’s a saying that “If people get great service, they tell five people; if they have an unpleasant experience, they tell 500.” When making a business decision on how to deal with a mistake caused by your company, your goal should always be to take great care of the patrons.

Granted, there are also people who look for flaws in your business, which is why you should check social media sites like Yelp frequently and address any complaints.  Don’t just let them appear to have gone unnoticed. If someone reads a bad review and sees that you tried to rectify the problem and that you have a greater amount of positive reviews, you can still land that potential customer or client.

Of course, positive reviews from customers and clients can also have a very positive effect on the public’s perception of your business.  Comments that rave about how great your service, food, or product is are as good as gold.  Most companies have a section on their website that gives an overview of what’s unique about them, how they are a cut above the rest, or just who they are as a business. While this is extremely important, customers’ impressions of your company have even more of an impact.  Those who are in the market for your service or product expect you to talk highly about what you do.  However, to hear it from an outside source really resonates with people. Thus positive endorsements should be the ultimate goal, and when you get them, make sure you share them on your website.

You may not think the customer is always right, but in this day and age positive reviews and posts spell success, while negative ones can spell failure. Thumbs up or down, you can be sure that either way, the word gets around.

Kevin D. Johnson, Jr., is CEO of NorthStarr Media Group, a multimedia production company that specializes in all areas of video production.