The overwhelming majority of consumers – 84% – turn to online business reviews, according to a BrightLocal study. Yet many small businesses miss out on this critical component of their marketing. Customers and potential customers use Google, Yelp and Facebook to find recommendations, whether it’s a restaurant, hair stylist or boutique. If you’re not leveraging the power of online reviews, you’re missing out.

Are you paying attention to online business reviews?

A white paper from Manta found that less than half – 41% – of small businesses are using online business reviews to their advantage. That’s the percentage that actually responds to online reviews. Twenty percent never respond to positive reviews, taking it for granted that the praise will keep coming. One-third don’t respond to negative reviews, but we all know that ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

It’s time to pay attention to those online reviews; 86% of respondents to the Manta survey found that positive online reviews led to an increase in sales. So how do you do that?

Ask for online reviews.

Whether it’s Facebook, Google or Yelp, ask your customers to review your business online. You can print it on a receipt, send the request in a follow-up email, or print it on your business cards. A simple, “If you liked the service, leave a review!” will suffice. If someone is particularly pleased with your service, ask if they’d be willing to write an online business review. This helps produce positive reviews to counteract the inevitable negative ones.

Respond to all reviews – even the negative ones.

Not everyone is going to be happy, and online review sites make it all too easy for a dissatisfied customer to post a negative review. You can turn this into a positive, however.

First, respond publicly and calmly. Let’s say John Doe writes, “My bagel was NOT toasted, and the cream cheese tasted off. Plus my coffee was cold, and the service was slow, and I’m never, ever going back!” If you’re tempted to fire back a retort, give it a day to cool off. Then respond, acknowledging the customer’s bad experience and inviting the customer in to try you again. You may want to offer a discount code privately. On Facebook, you can send a private message with the coupon or discount.

For positive reviews, always thank the customer and invite them back.

Use online business reviews as another tool in your marketing kit. As a small business, local search will be critical. Every positive review helps customers find you and shop with you.