Hug your haters – Why you should embrace those who dislike your product or service

In our CX Book Review series, we review books about great customer experiences, and the leadership and culture that create them. What books are you looking to read? Would you like us to add them to our list? Let us know!

In our previous post which you can read here, we learned about a formula that will help a company succeed at what they were doing, and why you should start with asking ‘why’. This time around, we’re dealing with another contentious issue – how to face and answer negative feedback or comments.

In a world where almost any kind of business has competitors, customer service has become the factor which is a cut above the rest. However, with any kind of enterprise, there are those who may dislike what you do, and they often vocalize this rather generously. Quite a few companies choose to ignore these ‘haters’, and this is a terrible choice. Hug Your Haters talks about why you should embrace these haters, and how you can handle these complaints.

You can watch a video review of the book below.

I thought this is one of those ‘must-read’ books, because  it not only tells you why, but also tells you how you can handle people who dislike your service or product, both privately or on a public forum.

Hug Your Haters was written by Jay Baer, who worked with an analytics firm to gather data to prove the benefits of embracing complaints as opposed to ignoring them. He got information about quite a few things such as the percentage of online and offline complaints, and their age.

The book starts with its most important message – answer all your customer’s complaints, no matter what. A customer who complains is one who cares. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to simply walk away instead of showing you whats wrong, and urging you to fix it? The fact that they are telling you their problems shows that they are probably willing to give you a chance to set things right, and possibly continue their patronage.

Thus, no matter what, always answer them. Listen to their complaints. If you’re in the wrong, admit it, and do your best to fix it and make it up to them. Le Pain Quotidien, a chain of bakery-restaurants, is a great example of how complaints can be turned on its head to benefit the company. One of their outlets had terrible reviews. Rather than make a token apology or ignore the complaints, the manager decided to offer the disgruntled customers a a gift card with which she asked them to visit a different branch, and see if they liked that better.
This ensured that they continued their patronage with the brand—remember, it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one—and was also a great way to get honest, unbiased feedback.

You might also ask about those people are are on the lookout for freebies.
A manager of a pizza place replied to this question saying that yes,  there is a small section of people who may be out to con you. But most of the people who complain are legitimate, and the odds are worth taking. You might well lose out on genuine customers by ignoring them if you dismiss most of them as frauds who are looking to freeload.

Baer divides your haters into two divisions – onstage and offstage. The former are those who take to social media and public forums to make complaints, while the latter choose more conventional means such as the telephone or email. Onstage haters are those who are more intent on instant gratification, while offstage ones are more measured and patient. Onstage ones seek an audience for their issue, while the offstage ones simply want their problems resolved. I love that this book makes this distinction. If you wouldn’t slam the phone down on a customer who calls you, why would you ignore a message on Twitter or Facebook?

Baer also mentions an area which is often neglected by companies which can really boost reputation – forums. These are where you can find the people who are most passionate about your service or product. They discuss it in detail, point out bugs in features, and more. Responding here will last as long as the forum does. It will also improve the image of your company among those who love it. Baer also mentions the advantages of self-service here, and how many customers these days actually prefer to solve their problems themselves. An FAQ page can never be too detailed.

Lastly, he provides detailed strategies for dealing with both onstage and offstage complaints. For offstage complaints, you need to use the same channel the customer contacted you on, resolve the issue as speedily as possible with a minimum number of responses, and be human about it. Unifying your data about the customer is also recommended, such as the number of times they have contacted you before, or their personal details. An interesting statistic here is that customers are twice as likely to use your service or product again if you resolve their problem on the first go.

For onstage haters, you need to find all mentions of your company or product first. People might not use your hashtag or handle while mentioning you, but there is software that focuses on finding the right keywords. For franchises and businesses which have a physical location, using software that brings up tweets or Facebook comments in a particular area might help find more mentions. You also need to make sure your answer is public.

A common concern is about those who are there for attention, rather than getting their issue resolved. Baer has a simple strategy: reply only twice. Any more and the conversation often changes focus or degenerates. His golden rule is to never respond more than twice to the same customer about the same issue in a public channel.

Lastly, when it comes to social media, a tweet or comment may be inadequate towards solving an issue. For instance, the character limit may restrict you from responding the way you need to. In such cases, replying to them publicly asking them to switch channels and stating the reason for the same is a pretty good idea.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book as it provided many insights into how technology has changed the customer service industry. Here are my key learnings from this book: 

  • Not responding to your customers implies that you don’t care about them, while successfully resolving an issue can promote your company 20 times more than regular advertising can. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth!
  • Offstage haters are those who complain via phone, email, and other private channels. They care more about issue resolution. Onstage haters are those who complain on social media, review sites, and other public channels. They want an audience and also want their problem to be solved quickly.
  • Always respond to your offstage haters as soon as possible. If you start responding to your onstage haters (and you should!), you have to make it consistent. You can’t reply to one message or tweet and ignore the rest.
  • Don’t take complaints personally. Always try to be empathetic and patient.
  • Keep your data unified to avoid annoying your customers by asking them for the same information multiple times. Use the same channel that your offstage hater uses to reply to them.
  • Never reply more than twice to onstage haters to avoid feeding trolls. Don’t be afraid to switch channels if needed.
  • The future of customer service involves self-service and FAQ pages as a way to reduce complaints. Mobile messaging apps, as well as community-based service on platforms such as forums, will also play a huge role.

A lot of this might seem like common sense but you would be surprised as to how very few companies implement these tactics. To win as a company, you need to win at customer service, and nothing underlines this better than the points made by the author.

This book was definitely worth the read for me!  Have you read Hug Your Haters?

Let me know what you thought about this book in the comments below, as well as what it might have taught you!