Here are my suggestions:
Get Professional: Step back, recover, lick your wounds if you must. Then make a clear separation between yourself and your business. It may even be helpful to make a Professional versus Personal (a la Pro/Con) list. What is your personal reaction to the feedback? Now what does your professional side say? Let the personal stuff stay personal and decide if it is appropriate to respond from the professional side.
Appropriate responses would: clarify a misunderstanding, acknowledge (your) responsibility and in all cases, support your business mission and values.
Say Thank You: All roads lead to thank you. No, I don’t mean, “thank you, ma’am, may I have another” groveling. I mean real gratitude that someone took the time to tell you something about your business. (Okay, we are NOT talking about the crazies—let crazy rest where it lands. It does not require a response—that’s called fuel in crazyland.) Even if the feedback came in emotional packaging, look deeper for the gift. Is there a fact or two there?
If you were to just read it in a monotone voice (without their pepper on it), is there any part of it that is true? Acknowledge the useful part. If all you can do while maintaining your professionalism and staying on mission is thank the person for taking the time to leave a comment, then do that.
Integrate It: After you let the dust settle on the process, make a decision to integrate anything that is useful from the feedback experience. Does the feedback mean that you aren’t communicating your policies clearly? Consider changing your contracts or frequently asked questions on your site. Did you learn anything about the guarantee you either explicitly or implicitly extend to clients and potential clients about your work or your service? Is it time to integrate a no-questions-asked refund policy?
Okay—that’s my two cents—what do you think? What are your stories about, comments on and tips for dealing with negative feedback?
Come on over to my site to learn more about dealing with the every day wonder of finishing what you start and running your business with style and grace.