I still remember the first time my former ecommerce brand got a negative review. It was a blistering criticism from a very unhappy customer and, at first, I took it personal. I mean, here was this person attacking my business, my pride and joy, my baby. What nerve! Turns out that negative review -if not all negative reviews- might not be so negative after all.

In my case, the negative review was really an opportunity; an opportunity to form a customer relationship with someone who cared enough to leave feedback, as well as learn how to make my business better in the process. Talk about a silver lining.

But that's not all.

"Negative reviews open up opportunities for fixing problems, rescuing unhappy customers, building trust and showing you care about your customer service." says Peter Mühlmann, the Founder and CEO of Trustpilot, a major online review community.

In fact, just responding is a benefit in itself.

According to a 2015 report Peter and his team at Trustpilot ran, when consumers see companies responding to problems, they're 15 percent more likely to buy something. What follows are 3 additional ways you can spin those negative reviews into positives.

1. Learn More About the Customer Experience

It can be difficult to determine the exact level of service your customers receive on a regular basis. For example, you may wonder if your team works as hard when you are not around, or you may have a mobile team that you cannot monitor fully.

Through negative reviews, you can read about specific details of an instance between a customer and an employee that did not go well. You can use this review as a basis to further train and educate the employee or to write him or her up. If there is an issue, you likewise can make adjustments on your end to prevent it from happening again.

2. Opportunity to Form Customer Relationships

You may have heard about how lethal unhappy customers are. They'll talk about their negative experience with others in their circle, and their comments can prevent others from doing business with you.

Thankfully, when you read negative reviews, you can nip this cause of potential trouble in the bud by addressing it head on. You can reach out to the customer to talk about the issue. You can discuss changes that are being made as a result of the review he or she wrote, and you can even offer a free product or service to make up for the trouble.

Keep in mind that, above all else, unhappy customers want to know that they are being heard, and your ability to reach out in this way can go a long way toward mending the relationship and even turning a once angry customer into a lifelong one.

3. Knowing What Internal Changes To Make

When you receive a negative review, it is important that you determine if this was an isolated incident or if the incident is recurring. If you determine that the issue is recurring, you must take action immediately to stop it. In some cases, this means terminating an employee or taking a product out of your lineup.

It may also mean creating a mandatory training session for employees, adjusting procedures and more. By taking action immediately, you can prevent having other unhappy customers before it is too late to fix.

As business owners, it's impossible for us to please every customer, all the time.

But, if you make a regular effort to read through your negative reviews and act on them, you can improve your business significantly.

Published on: May 3, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.