You cannot run a successful business without happy customers. It is easy for an unhappy client to bash your company online, where a few well-placed complaints might impact business and give you a bad reputation. All employees should be trained to handle customer complaints. Nothing gets an already aggravated customer going quite like being passed around from employee to employee. Send more serious problems to customer service, but handle everyday complaints on your own. Here are five tips for dealing with an unhappy customer:

Don’t take it personally
It is easy to get defensive when someone hurls insults and accusations at you, even if his or her anger is really aimed at the company rather than you as an individual. When dealing with an unhappy customer, take a deep breath and remember your role in the situation. Bite your tongue so you do not snap back. Let the customer finish his or her tirade uninterrupted. The customer may not always be right in the literal sense, but you should never outwardly blame him or her for the problem.

Pay attention
Actually listen to the reasons why the customer is unhappy. Don’t spend the whole time thinking of witty comebacks or excuses, and do not speak in a condescending manner. You will have a hard time coming up with a reasonable solution to the problem if you don’t know what the problem is in the first place. Remain calm and collected. Prompt the customer with something neutral, like “let’s go over what happened.” Give the customer your full attention. Don’t jump to conclusions right away, and don’t try to solve the problem while the customer is talking.

Understand the complaint
Apologize to the customer even if you believe his or her complaint is unjustified, and express some empathy. Repeat back his or her concerns. Make sure you are both on the same page. When you can, shift the blame from a person to an object, like an unclear form or faulty part. Acknowledge that a problem exists and that the proper steps will be taken to remedy it.

Figure out a solution
Don’t repeat back your company policy and think they get you off the hook. Rules are rules, but you can probably find some wiggle room when it comes to satisfying customers. According to Inc.com, bending the rules on occasion can yield lead to a better outcome for the company than sending home an unhappy customer would have. Handle the customer first and the complaint second. Think about how you would like to be treated if you were the customer in this situation.

Follow up
Make sure the promises you make to the customer are carried out. If you told them you would check for a solution and you still can’t find one, let them know that you kept your word and tried to help them to the best of your abilities.

Don’t just check up on individual customers. Patrol the Internet for unhappy customers who might have complaints about your company. Get permission to respond to online gripes and open the lines of communication between the company and the customers. This shows the company has taken a proactive approach to customer satisfaction.