Yes, it’s scary to ask for feedback. And yes, it’s perhaps even scarier when that feedback turns out to be negative. Not to mention that some feedback may be unwarranted or off the mark. No one wants to feel like they failed! But you can’t get away from requesting feedback from customers.

So what do you do when the fear of negative feedback threatens you and your coworkers? Follow this process to use negative customer feedback to improve future experiences.

Remember That It’s Not a Bad Omen… Probably

Every business gets negative customer feedback or bad reviews at some point. It’s impossible not to!

So unless it turns into a regular occurrence and you continually receive negative feedback, you’re certainly not in trouble. Still, pay close attention to all feedback and reviews to catch the signs early and start taking action.

Direct Your Attention to One Area at a Time

Expecting teams to immediately fix every issue that comes up in customer feedback won’t help. Teams pulled this way and that get lost quickly. That type of of pressure also leads to panicked, overworked people who don’t know what to do.

People who feel lost and panicked make mistakes. They don’t do their best work. Nobody wants to work on the verge of or constantly in a state of panic or wander aimlessly.

So choose specific portions of negative feedback and focus on improving in those specific areas. Whether you choose the biggest issues or the easiest issues to resolve doesn’t matter. Just don’t try to do it all at once.

Simple advice? Probably. But it’s so simple that we often seem to forget that we’ll get much further by sticking together instead of trying to do ALL THE THINGS.

Choosing what direction to go in may require significant evaluation or even risk management. But as long you unify teams behind improvements, those improvements are much more likely to happen.

Evaluate and Make Actionable Plans

Actionable is the key word here. Look at your current processes and personnel and create a plan with objectives to reach your ultimate improvement goals. Breaking up the goal into specific, achievable objectives further prevents overwhelming people.

Even if it doesn’t scare you personally to not have a plan — maybe you’re all about going with the flow — plenty of people will thank you for making clear, specific goals. And it helps ensure you actually make changes!

So consider how your current processes need to change. Sometimes businesses get negative feedback simply because their processes aren’t optimized.

Maybe it’s a software you’re currently using or the way in which your workflow occurs. Are people falling through the cracks? Time to rethink your method of outreach. Instead of simply relying on email, for example, start texting.

Or if you already text, create a more structured follow-up plan to ensure the business stays in touch at certain points. Focus on personalizing messages and increasing customer lifetime value.

Are some team members fuzzy on the process for handling customer service inquiries? Time to fix your training process to get everyone up to speed. Or maybe you need to hire more customer service agents to ensure everything is handled in a timely manner.

Don’t assume that just because something works well most of the time that it’s the best thing you could be doing. Look to the root of negative feedback and complaints and see what exactly to do differently.

As you start planning, maybe you find that the initial goal you chose isn’t the best use of your time right now. Great! Pick something else and start planning that.

Keep Asking Questions

There’s no reason to keep yourself in the dark. That’s when you overthink, get paranoid, and the fear really sinks in.

So shine a light on your problems and ask for clarification. That means following up with people who left negative reviews or gave less than stellar feedback. With reviews, this can include responding publicly or taking the conversation to a private channel. Just keep the conversation going.

Especially if you’re unsure of what something means in a bad review, ask more questions! More context will only help you deliver better customer experiences. Show that you actually care what people are saying and that you’re going to fix the problem.

That’s why texting is such a great tool for engaging with customers, requesting reviews, and following up. You keep that whole conversation in one place and can view the entire communication history very quickly.

It’s not a short process to take in negative feedback and turn that information into meaningful changes. It will be difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. But it’s so much better than the alternative. And as you practice taking every useful morsel out of negative feedback, the process will only get easier.

And though this post focuses on handling negative customer feedback, many of the principles of course apply to dealing with critical feedback in other circumstances as well. Staying calm, making a plan, and asking questions all help you move forward and improve.