For many, if not all of us our businesses are very important to us. They represent not only a source of income but also a source of pride, self-esteem and identity. So it’s quite understandable that when somebody levels criticism as our businesses it’s a very bitter pill to swallow. Be that as it may, the pill still needs to be swallowed, if you are at least intent on growing and improving your business. Whether the criticism is given constructively or not here are some tips to help use criticism of your business constructively.

Identify the action

Criticism of your business may often feel like it’s criticism of you but that is most often not the case at all. When people bring concerns to you about something to do with your business understand and appreciate that they have personally chosen to expend a lot of energy to make you aware of a problem they experienced or something they feel has the potential to cause problems. How then do you make sure you don’t take this personally? Identify the action or article that they are talking about and separate it from the person or people involved.

Understand the facts

One thing you will need to be constantly aware of when dealing with criticism that stems from a negative experience is that it tends to come from an emotional place. The person or customer has been through an experience that cannot be taken away or changed. That said what you should seek to do is establish the facts. This happens first when you receive the criticism and secondly when you investigate the criticism. Make sure you establish what the criticism is about. If a customer complains about your ordering process or a website visitor expresses a negative opinion about your website understand what exactly they have a problem with and possible solutions to it.

Explain but…

A lot of times criticism and complaints show that the person does not understand something about the business. It may be the constraints, the system, the process or something else altogether. While your instinct may be to explain the issue to them you run the risk of coming off as being defensive. As a rule of thumb explain only to the extent that the explanation helps to provide a solution to the problem. If your explanation isn’t creating a solution save it. That goes double for cases where it is criticism that isn’t coming from an unhappy customer. If a person says your ordering process needs improvement just ask for their suggestion and fight the urge to explain.

Address the problem

What you want to do is to address the problem, not the critic. If you have gathered the facts correctly identifying the specific problem and a solution if the situation requires one shouldn’t be that difficult. If you make the mistake of addressing the critic instead of the problem then you might be in for a particularly bumpy ride. This is easiest to understand in a low-pressure situation where a person who is not a customers offers their unsolicited opinion about something in your business. Expand your energy on the problem rather than the person pointing out the problem.

Response Plan

Figuring out how you’re going to address the problem is essentially creating a response plan. Remember that explanations are only valuable to the degree to which they address the problem. Your response plan should be about addressing the problem. A customer who has had a bad experience likely has a real problem that has a clear and understandable standard which the customer expects to be reached. When this is done we can say the problem is resolved. So you will need a plan of steps to take. General criticisms can be handled in the same way if your investigation of the criticism is real and warranted.

Inform the complainant where applicable

If you are dealing with an unhappy customer who has been through an experience it is very important to let them how the issue will be handled going forward. It is at the very least unfair to expect the customer to wait until kingdom come for communication on the issue to be resolved. So tell the customer the process you will use to resolve the issue and how long you expect things to take. If there are any constraints this is a good time to let them know about those constraints and how they may affect the timing of the resolution plan.

Criticism is never easy to take. Oftentimes we will find ourselves agitated in the heat of the moment so it’s a good idea to take a step back before responding if you can. Also, make sure that the criticism in fact requires a response from you before you respond.