If you run a business, you know that customer complaints are inevitable. You also know that social media can amplify those complaints if people feel like they are not being heard.

The key is to find ways to deal with customer dissatisfaction before it develops a life of its own. The first thing I tell clients to do when they get negative feedback or read unfavorable comments about their business online is to take a deep breath. Don’t react or respond before you’ve had time to evaluate what is being said and who is saying it.

It’s important to listen carefully to understand where customer complaints are coming from. When negative feedback “goes viral,” it’s often because someone felt that his or her concerns were being ignored. For businesses owners, this requires staying tuned to online channels and responding quickly—even if it’s just to let people know that you are actively looking into the issue. Most unhappy customers just want to know that a resolution is coming.

Empower Your Employees

Empower your employees to deal with customer complaints in an active, personal, and compassionate way. It can mean the difference between a positive review—or a scathing one (both of which can live online forever). In this video that I produced for Grange Insurance Association and its network of independent agents, I discuss the importance of listening to customers and addressing their complaints in a personal and professional manner:

When it comes to word of mouth, it’s not enough to sit back and hope for the best. You may provide excellent products backed by stellar service, but it takes just one disgruntled customer with a digital megaphone to throw a wrench into things. Monitor what customers are saying and engage them in meaningful dialogue. Above all, if something needs to be fixed—admit that it needs to be fixed. Then fix it. In the process, you may turn your company’s biggest detractors into its most vocal cheerleaders.