By Matt Doyle, VP and Co-Founder of Excel Builders.

The quality of your online reviews is so important if you want to make the right impression on your customers. The reviews found on Google maps, Amazon product pages and other sources are likely to come up whenever someone searches for your products. That makes those reviews the first impression many browsers have of your product. Have you checked them recently? Are they giving your audience the impression you want? If not, you need a plan.

A bad review is a serious problem. But it's going to happen often enough that it can't the CEO's job to regulate. I created this policy for my employees so that they can take the initiative to protect our reputation and engage angry customers in a positive way.

Track Negative Reviews With a Weekly Search

You need to know if there are bad reviews to deal with, preferably before they have a long time to stew in the search results. I have found that the easiest way to do this is to give an employee a weekly sign-off sheet to check all of our profiles across the internet. With a checkoff list, this duty usually only takes about an hour and leaves us with a full view of what's being said online.

If you don't already, get profiles for your company in all of the major directory sites that are relevant to your business, like your Google Maps page. Check back weekly to see if any new reviews have been posted to your profile.

If Unfair, Check Site Policies

Not all negative reviews are accurate and some won't even make sense. If you are looking at a review and it contains nothing but vitriol and confusing references, try to resolve it through site administrators. Check the site policy where you've found the review. In many cases, you'll be able to contact someone about removing it.

Here's a warning from someone who has done this many times, though: Site administrators can take weeks to respond and may not respond at all unless heavily pestered. In my experience, it's best to have the employee who is handling the checklist contact the site on a weekly schedule until they return some information.

If Fair, Verify the Experience Within Your Company

If the angry review sounds legitimate, check where the experience went wrong and see if it can be corrected from the inside. For example, if the reviewer had a bad experience with a buggy website feature, you can schedule a fix by dropping a note to your developer. If the customer had a bad experience with an employee, you can instead focus on coaching the employee or changing scripts for dealing with customers.

Engage Positively

Once you've decided to make a change for the better, take the initiative to make this a good experience for the angry reviewer by having your employee contact them. Apologize for bad experiences and tell them that you've taken steps to make sure that it can't happen again. If practical, offer special discounts or deals to get them back on your side.

Remember: Thousands of people can see a review over its lifetime. If you simply ignore a bad review, many of those people will assume that the review is entirely accurate. That's why you should always respond in the comments if the site allows it. Even if the reviewer refuses to change their review, searchers will still see that you tried to engage them and help them.

Broadcast Good Experiences

If the reviewer comes back around and withdraws their complaints, make sure that you're linking to the experience through your social media accounts. Take screenshots of your Facebook or Twitter posts. Not only will you be protecting your brand, you may be saving customers from misunderstandings that cause them to leave their own bad reviews.

This is an easy policy to keep going with a single employee once you get it running. Despite a very low weekly effort requirement, it is a great way to create lasting goodwill for your brand.  

Matt Doyle is the VP and Co-Founder of Excel Builders, a truly unique custom home builder, creating homes that make every day easier.

Published on: May 2, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.