Receiving customer complaints is guaranteed as long as your doors (or website) are open for business. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you will receive them, but rather ‘when’. Any seasoned leader or entrepreneur will tell you complaints come with the territory. And although you may have a legendary product bound to better the world you will still receive negative feedback at some point. What you do with that feedback, however, will determine how long you remain open.
Jay Baer’s newest book, Hug Your Haters, is a great tool for any business professional that cares about branding. The entire book discusses how to deal with negative feedback and those who leave it, aka ‘haters’. Baer states that “Haters are not your problem…Ignoring them is” (3). When you don’t respond to feedback, even if it’s the harshest thing you’ve ever heard, you’re communicating ‘I don’t care’.
Customers who take the time to provide feedback care enough about your brand to offer suggestions. Otherwise they would have just gone silently to your competitors. Listening to feedback and taking what was said into consideration is merely showing the customer respect. Welcoming feedback isn’t always an easy pill to swallow, yet it will greatly benefit your business if you embrace the value behind it.
When you address customer complaints rather than dismiss them, you begin to uncover the root of the problem, which most often will improve your brand offering and increase customer satisfaction and retention. It shows customers you value their feedback and are listening.
So what’s the winning equation for hugging your haters? According to Baer it is “answering every complaint, in ever channel, every time” (10). The popularity of social media has made this both challenging and convenient. Since there are so many different platforms haters can flock to, responding takes resources, time, and money. If you are a small business owner with limited staff, start by sticking with a few platforms that work best for your business and respond to every comment, every time.
Baer highlights four primary benefits to hugging haters: 1). Turns bad news good, 2). Creates customer advocacy, 3). Gathers insights and intelligence, and 4). Differentiates from your competition. Addressing bad news gives you an opportunity to recover and retain unhappy customers. When addressing complaints, it is important to acknowledge any mistakes made by your company- this shows authenticity and humanizes the experience. Engaging with your customers in the midst of a problem has great potential to turn them into advocates, which has tremendous value for the brand. Be thankful for complaints because it highlights your issues and pain points.
No longer is providing great customer service a luxury but rather a necessity. The business field is fiercely competitive and the primary differentiator is the way it serves customers. Traditional means of providing great customer service will never go away. There are problems that can’t be fully handled online. However, seventy-one percent of onstage (online) complaints were a result of companies failing to respond offstage (phone, email, etc) (67). What does this mean for your businesses? Care about all haters. Don’t focus more on social outlets simply because it’s cheaper. Answer every complaint, in every channel, every time. Pick up the phone, reply to email, and respond to online comments. Balance your efforts.
Successful businesses understand the power and potential of harnessing feedback. They appreciate the good reviews and embrace the bad ones as opportunities for growth rather than taking offense. Hugging your haters is what separates the amateurs from the professionals. Baer concludes his book with three valuable customer service lessons: “1). Customer service is more complicated than ever, but the formula for success is knowable and achievable, 2). Interacting with your customers, especially when they’re upset, is one-hundred percent worth the effort, and 3). You need to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time” (180).
Hug Your Haters both inspired and challenged my thinking about customer service. It also provided me with many practical tools to literally hug my haters. If you haven’t picked up a copy of this book, do yourself a favor and order it now! And if you have read this book I’d love to know what you learned. Leave me a comment below or send me a tweet.
PC: Chunk of Change