In today’s world, consumers have greater control than ever. Through reviews and social media, they can learn and leave feedback about your business. Many entrepreneurs fear receiving criticism; however, negative comments can provide important clues to improving your business. Here’s how to use negative comments to expand your brand.

1. Remove yourself from the comment. In most cases, criticism isn’t about you, unless you were personally rude to the customer, in which case you deserve a negative comment. Instead, most people are going to be critical of your product or service. For that reason, you don’t want to take the comment personally or get defensive.

2. Find the core of the criticism. Sometimes consumers take the long route when complaining or giving feedback. Your goal is to sift through the complaint to find the meat of the problem. For example, a buyer may tell you why they needed your product, why they choose your product and the whole process they went through to buy, but what you want is the core problem, such as it broke, didn’t work or was the wrong color.

3. Use criticism to improve your product or service. Admittedly, there are consumers who will complain and leave bad feedback that is meant to be snarky or rude. Sometimes they get upset over things you have no control over. I once had someone complain to me and ask for a refund on a product I didn’t create or sell. However, many people provide feedback that can reveal areas you can improve in. Perhaps they like the product, but not your customer service. Maybe they feel the order process was too difficult or long. These are problems you can fix.

4. Use criticism to beef up your customer service. I love that when I complain about my printer or Internet service on Twitter, the companies respond asking for more information or referring me to a resource where I can get the problem resolved. Not all companies are responsive. When people complain, the speed in which you respond and the quality of your response can make a huge impact on your brand. If you respond well, not only will you retain a customer, but that customer may refer new business. However, not responding will result in more than losing a customer. It can also mean losing other potential customers because of negative reviews and comments.

Negative feedback and complaints can’t be avoided. Even the best businesses receive complaints. However, smart companies recognize that constructive criticism is a learning tool they can use to improve. Further, by responding professionally with the intention of being helpful they can create customer evangelists who will spread the company’s brand.