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Hug Your Haters

How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers

By: Jay Baer

Reviewed By: Ramona Sukhraj

In the past, companies were obsessed with making everyone love them.

Even though we all know it’s impossible for everyone to love us, it could hurt to try, right?

As a result, business owners would (and still do) freak out when someone says something negative about them online or they got an overly-critical review in the media, but now they are starting to change their tune.

Haters are now viewed as a necessary evil that all businesses have to deal with.

Thanks to social media and sites like Yelp, Angie's List, etc. and the perceived anonymity of the internet, people are sharing their critical and hateful opinions without hesitation or remorse -- but this doesn’t have to spell disaster for your organization.

In his latest book, Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, Jay Baer shows how haters are actually a good thing.

If the idea of dealing with haters makes you uncomfortable or customer service isn’t your strong suit, you’ll definitely want to give this book a read.

How to Make Customer Service Interactions Count

Hug Your Haters is ultimately about delivering good customer service and using the criticisms from your haters to improve your products and services.

According to Baer, customer service is the new marketing – and since modern marketers end up interacting with the most customers publicly, it’s important that we all understand customer service to do our jobs well.

You might be afraid of complaints, but it's time to change your mindset.

People that complain are putting in an effort to share their opinions, which is much more valuable to your business than the silent frustration of the unimpressed customer.

Complaints can easily be dealt with, and when you handle them the right way, you will see positive results. Here’s how.

1. Seek Our Your Haters

Baer suggests actively seeking out complaints, criticisms, and things that simply make your customers less than happy. If you wait for your haters to find you, it’s already too late.

Customer complaints are indications of areas in your business that need improvement – the quicker you can address those issues, the better off your business will be now and in the future.

2. Address All Complaints

It’s natural to write-off some complaints that you think don’t matter, but that’s not always the best move.

In many cases, if one person has a specific complaint, there are thousands of others who have the same complaint but have chosen to keep it to themselves.

Of course, not every complaint is valid or needs to be fixed, but you should at least look into every complaint you can find.

At a minimum, let your customer know that their voice is heard and possibly offer an explanation of your point of view, a solution, or some sort of compensation.

3. Create a “Hatrix” to Guide Your Responses

A Hatrix is an internal document for your customer service and social media marketing teams to reference when dealing with haters.

Your Hatrix basically sets the guidelines for how your employees should respond to haters based on the context of their complaint – where they complained, the type of complaint, who they are, etc.


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Not all haters are created equal and you shouldn’t address all of them – especially the trolls, but you do want to document all of the legitimate to semi-legitimate complaints you receive as sometimes your haters are aware of small problems that can later turn into big issues.

The way you keep track of trends in either direction is by keeping track in the first place – with your Hatrix.

The Benefits of Hugging Your Haters

Once you start to see your haters for what they truly are, opportunities to improve your business, your attitude towards customer service completely changes.

At that point, you can start receiving the benefits of hugging your haters.

Turning Points

Have you ever had a terrible experience with a business, only for the manager or someone else to step in and completely turn it around for you? Instantly, your respect for the company jumps higher than it would if they had just delivered a satisfactory experience to begin with.

Why is that?

Because we all know that mistakes happens and nothing is perfect.

The intent behind a company’s actions is important to us. Whenever you address your customers complaints, instead of ignoring them, you create opportunities for a turning point in your relationship with your customers.

Social Proof

Nowadays, complaints are rarely private. How you handle these complaints makes a huge difference in the mind your customers and prospects. Simply ignoring the complaint shows everyone that your company just doesn’t care – regardless of whether it’s true or not.

Quickly responding to the situation and apologizing for the negative experience shows people that you care.

If you think about it, these situations create an opportunity for social proof because if you handle the situation the right way, it shows everyone how your brand does customer service.

That being said, it’s still better to work things out privately with the customer by using email, live chat, phone, or social media DMs.

Once you have solved the problem in private, you can return and thank them publicly for bringing the issue to their attention so the spectators (there will be plenty) will know that the issue was resolved successfully.

Winning Sales

Of course, we want to delight our customers, but the long-term benefit of customer service is increased sales.

When your employees on the frontlines hear the same complaints over and over, they’re really discovering opportunities to improve your products, services, customer service, brand positioning, and many other aspects of your business.

This is valuable data that we usually spend hours and thousands of dollars to uncover!

As you continue to address complaints and improve your products and services, your business as a whole improves.

Better products and services lead to more sales – and a better overall business turns one-time transactions into lifetime customers.