Nobody ever likes to get a bad review, certainly not small business owners who’ve poured their lives and fortunes into something they love.

Today, business reviews are no longer coming from a single reviewer or vague word of mouth. Reviews are readily available to anyone online at any time, worldwide. And customers are now accustomed to checking these online reviews before making decisions.

This new reality is understandably intimidating. What if a spate of bad, or worse, unfair reviews show up about your hotel?

A recent TripAdvisor survey conducted to get a better understanding of how customers use online reviews when making travel decisions, may come as a welcome surprise to many small business owners:

Reviews are important: 80% of those surveyed always or frequently read reviews before making a decision on an accommodation.

Good reviews help: Not surprisingly, 79% said they are more likely to book an accommodation with a higher “bubble” rating on TripAdvisor.

But a few bad reviews isn’t bad: The survey showed that people are careful when reading reviews. Nearly 40% said they ignore extreme comments. And they tend to read an average of ten reviews before booking an accommodation.

No reviews is worse: The survey found that 52% said they wouldn’t book an accommodation which didn’t have any reviews. So a mix of positive and negative reviews is actually better than no reviews at all.

 More recent reviews are more important: More than three quarters of those surveyed (78%) said that they focus on the more current reviews to get the freshest perspective.

TripAdvisor reviews are accurate: We can’t speak for other review platforms, but the accuracy and reliability of the reviews on TripAdvisor – every one of which is moderated either electronically or manually before being posted – is clear from the survey results. More than  90% said that the reviews they read on TripAdvisor before booking a hotel accurately reflected their own experience.

Of course, there will be negative reviews. That’s a fact of life. But what we find is that customers are becoming increasingly savvy about online reviews. By and large, they are weighing up evidence, not looking for that one disgruntled customer to make their decision.

This is good news for small business owners worried about how online reviews will affect the businesses they’ve built with their own sweat and blood.

The bottom line is that if businesses take good care of their customers, provide a quality service, and are responsive to complaints, they will get better reviews. And higher ratings on TripAdvisor. And more customers.