At some point, you are likely to experience an online business crisis. It might come because a negative review causes a cascade effect, throwing your reputation into doubt. Perhaps you made a mistake in some aspect of your business, and the word got out. Maybe you had to fire someone and now that former employee is out for blood.

No matter the nature of the online business crisis, it’s important that you tackle the issue head on. A crisis doesn’t have to mean the end of your business — as long as you do what you can to stay ahead of the situation. Here are three steps that can help you handle an online business crisis:

1. Think Fast, But Not TOO Fast

You want to respond to an online business crisis quickly, but there is a danger to just jumping in. You run the risk of a response that could make things worse. This is especially true when responding to negative comments.

Realize whether or not you dealing with a true online business crisis, or whether you are just dealing with a troll. There is a difference. The way you respond to a troll could turn a small thing that no one noticed into a really big deal.

If you are in the midst of a true crisis, you need to get something out there fast, but try not to be reactionary. Acknowledge there is a problem, and if you don’t have the details yet, say that you are working to get to the bottom of it, and you will share more information when you have it. Update your information as you have it so that your customers and clients see that you are on top of the situation and willing to communicate.

And before you send an angry response to something, pause. Anger felt at the outset of a crisis is rarely the thing you want to convey.

2. Don’t Go Into Hiding

Don’t hide from the uproar. While you might not be able to share all the details of an online business crisis, you can answer honestly, even if the answer is “I don’t know.” It can help t

It can help to think through different potential crises so that you have an idea of how you will respond. Often, we go into hiding because we aren’t sure of how to handle the situation. Think about different ways you can handle a situation so that you are prepared. All you need to do is tweak your response a little bit, and you won’t need to go into hiding to avoid uncomfortable questions.

3. Own Up to Mistakes

If you did make a mistake, you need to own up. Even though it can be embarrassing, the reality is that many people are forgiving if you acknowledge your mistake, apologize, and share what you’re doing to avoid these problems in the future.

Sometimes, though, an online business crisis is the result of someone bent on bringing you down. In these cases, it’s important to explain the situation as best you can without actively attacking someone else, and sharing what you are doing to hopefully avoid the problem later. Even if something isn’t your fault, you can still express regret for the situation, and show that you are doing what you can to help.

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I'm Miranda and I'm a freelance financial journalist and money expert. My specialties are investing, small business/entrepreneurship and personal finance. The journey to business success and financial freedom is best undertaken with fellow travelers.

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