Receiving customer complaints is guaranteed if your doors (or website) is 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 that they come with the territory. And although you may have a legendary product that is bound to turn the world upside down for the better or save abandoned kittens off the streets, you will still receive negative feedback. What you do with that feedback, however, will determine how long your doors remain open.
My main role as a Customer Experience Manager is to sift through feedback and look for solutions- both for the individual customer at hand and the organization as a whole. This can quickly become an overwhelming task if I don’t keep in mind the ‘why’ behind what I’m doing. I can easily feel like a human punching bag taking one hit after another if I just receive the feedback like a robot. Adding heart to this process takes time and intentionality, something I am continually learning to do more often.
I recently started reading Jay Baer’s newest book Hug Your Haters. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and order a copy today; it’s worth your time, I promise! It’s one of those books that you highlight every page because the points are so spot on. The entire premise is 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’.
If you think about it- customers who take the time to provide feedback care enough about your brand to offer such suggestions. Listening to feedback and taking what was said into consideration is merely showing your 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. Scott Wise, owner of Scotty’s Brewhouse, has the following viewpoint regarding negative feedback: “People don’t complain just to complain, they have a legitimate concern, and you need to recognize that as an opportunity, not a problem” (5).
When you address customer complaints rather than dismiss them, you get to the root of the problem, which most often will improve your offering and increase customer satisfaction and retention. It shows your customers that you value their feedback and are listening. Debbie Goldberg, co-owner of Fresh Brothers Pizza, says it best: “Overall, I want people to know that, good or bad, we’re listening and we care, and we’re working on it” (13).
So what’s the winning equation to hugging your haters? According to Baer, it’s “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 be flock to, responding takes resources, time, and money. If you are a small business owner with limited staff, I recommend sticking to a few platforms that work best for your business and responding to every comment every time.
Successful businesses understand the power and potential of harnessing feedback. They appreciate the good ones and view the bad ones as growth opportunities rather than crushing critiques. I believe the philosophy of hugging haters is what sets apart the minor leagues from the major leagues.
Do you normally hug your haters? Or do you tell them to go pound sand? I’d love to hear your take on embracing complaints. Leave me a comment below or send me a tweet.