Dealing with customer complaints isn't a fun job, but what most companies don't realize is that the potential for growth comes along with it.

By pushing aside the inclination to sell a product and addressing customer concerns wholeheartedly, you can use your haters to identify your business's weak points--and restructure for improvement.

Genuinely seeking customer opinions can also prompt profitable actions. For example, I was recently working with a higher education client that doesn't ask its members and potential donors for money directly. Instead, it started using the line "Tell us what you think," which increased the likelihood of a customer's participating, joining an organization, or giving money considerably.

By asking customers--even those who complain--to help you help them, you not only expose potential areas for improvement, but you also earn the chance to win over your biggest brand critics.

Get to know your haters.

I've found that complainers tend to fall into two camps: those who seek help and those who seek attention.

The complainers looking for help want action and assistance--a direct response from you to help solve their problem--so they reach out via phone, email, or your company website. In fact, 90 percent of those who complain on the phone expect a reply.

But the attention seekers don't expect a conversation to take place. Only 41 percent of those who complain on social media and other review sites anticipate a response. However, when complainers in this category did receive a reply, they were almost twice as likely to recommend the company in the future.

Transforming haters into helpers.

So how can you turn those haters into brand helpers? Here are four steps your company can take to make every complaint count.

1. Don't wait for complainers to come to you. When customers complain, it indicates a pain point in your business. By seeking out your less satisfied customers first, you can get to the bottom of the issue and make amends faster.

2. Put on your customer glasses. Try experiencing your business as your customers do. Get out of the office, and shop for yourself. Buy your own product. Try returning something, or call your customer service department. By experiencing your company as a customer, you'll better understand how to fix weak spots.

Alternatively, shop your competitors. What are they doing differently? Is it working? Use these answers as inspiration for improving your offering or as valuable learning lessons to stay away from disproven tactics.

3. Consult internal sources and customers themselves. In many cases, you can't make improvements without talking to customers themselves, both directly and indirectly. Look at your internal search reports. What are customers searching for that they aren't asking about? Talk to your customer service team members, and document the questions they commonly hear. Is there a pattern in customers' inquiries or objections? If so, create content that addresses those points.

Sometimes, however, the best input comes straight from the source. Reach out to customers through email surveys, Facebook inquiries, focus groups, and telephone calls. Not only will their honest input help you identify problems, but simply asking for feedback will cast you in a good light as well.

4. Develop a "hatrix" to streamline responses. Create a resource that will help your customer service team address problems on each platform using time-tested methods. Outlining how to deal with complaints based on where and how they are delivered will allow your team to solve issues more efficiently, ultimately benefitting both you and your customers.

You might be in the business of selling, but if you don't take the time to ask for help, your company can't move in the right direction. And who better to ask than the very people who use your services? By reaching out with an open ear and taking these suggestions to heart, your haters might just become your biggest brand advocates.