When determining whether your company's course is the right one, it's vital to listen to your customers' feedback--and adjust accordingly. Only trouble is, measuring that feedback can be tricky.

You'll need to collect samples from a random representation of customers, measure their reactions and put out fires if need be. But here's the tricky part: You'll want to factor in both positive and negative criticism to ensure a more accurate assessment. 

While it's easy enough to track positive critiques through comments and social media, negative criticism is a bit different. Some upset critics are less vocal or confrontational, while a select few may even attempt to curb future customers, suggests Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee, a customer experience and analytics firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., who recently published a book about the subject. It's challenging to measure negative feedback because it's not clear which customers who respond negatively will actually impact your company financially, he adds.

Here's how Freed suggests sussing out negative feedback and coming up with a balanced read for your business: 

1. Identify risky customers, accounting for the difference between those who are risky or just neutral. Ask customers who say they are unlikely to recommend your business, if they are going to communicate that to other people. If they say yes, they are your risky customers. If no, they will do no harm. Make sure you know the difference.

2. Address the risky customers' problems with the same precision you used to identify them. If you are going to the trouble of narrowing down who and where your negative feedback is coming from, make sure you apply the same focus to finding a solution to creating better feedback.

3. Make future decisions based on this feedback. Once you know whether a policy or product at your company has detractors, consider if there are fans too. If the detractors outweigh the fans, you have a problem. In the best case, you'll be able to tweak an offensive policy or product without upsetting your fans. Either way, it's a judgment call.