It doesn’t matter how attentive you are to the needs of your customers or how great a business you run; you are going to experience at least one customer complaint at some point throughout your career. It’s important to not let a single complaint discourage you too much, but it’s also vital that you evaluate what the customer’s saying and determine whether or not it’s a fair criticism of your business. There could be a tangible way to improve that you hadn’t previously considered, but can now work on since your customer pointed it out. Sometimes, criticisms are completely unfair or reflect unrealistic expectations. Here are concrete ways to handle a customer complaint, because you’ll likely have to address issues at some point in your career.

Evaluate the complaint

When you first receive the complaint, whether in person or online, take a step back and evaluate what’s being said. Do not let your emotions get in the way and objectively think about what’s being said. Is it a fair complaint? Is it something completely unreasonable? Try to understand where the customer is coming from and how you would feel in their position.

Avoid conflict

Even if the comment is completely unfounded and rude, it’s important to avoid conflict as much as possible. Be open and listen to the customer’s concerns. Ask questions to learn as much about the situation as possible. If you need time to process it and set your emotions aside, ask the customer if you can get back to them or wait to respond to the message. You should address a complaint as soon as possible, but not at the expense of losing your temper.

See if it can be fixed

If the complaint seems completely unrealistic, still take some time to consider it. Initially, it might seem outrageous, but take additional time to make sure your gut reaction is correct. However, if it’s a complaint about an employee or the way business was conducted, look into the issue. Talk to the people involved and see if there’s some way you can fix the problem.

Make a statement

Thanks to social media, many customer complaints are completely public. If your complaint came from an online medium, publicly acknowledge the issue and make it clear you’re going to work with the customer to find a solution or discuss how you’re improving your business. If others see you value customer feedback, even when it’s negative, it usually reflects well on your business, especially when the issue is handled in a professional manner.

Follow up afterward

After you’ve talked to the customer and resolved the issue as best as you can, make sure you follow up. Ask the customer if there’s anything else you can help with and encourage future feedback. Thank them for their comments and then move on. Even if the customer is incredibly rude, it’s best to be as polite and professional as possible. Your business revolves around your reputation, so you want to handle complaints seriously; this step is particularly important if the complaint has been made in a public forum like social media. You want others to see you take complaints seriously and handle them well.