Are you ready to hug your haters?

Hug Your HatersHug your haters? Who wants to embrace those who serve up bad reviews, slam you in social or pepper your website with complaints?

If you’re smart — you do.

Back in the good old days, if you were disappointed in product or a company’s service, you wrote them a terse letter or if you were really steamed — you’d call their 800 number.

And then you’d wait. And wait.

Today, if something goes awry — odds are you’re going to grab your smart phone. You might snap a picture and post it on Facebook with a scathing commentary. Or you might go to Yelp, Expedia, or some other review site and share your experience.

You might take to Twitter to ask for some help from whoever is manning their Twitter feed, if anyone is.

But odds are, what you won’t do is stay silent.

According to Jay Baer’s new (and brilliant book) Hug Your Haters, there are two kinds of haters out there.

If we want action on a problem, we’re offstage haters. We prefer to talk privately one-to-one to resolve an issue. We pick up the phone. We send an email. We meet in person.

If we want an audience, we’re onstage haters who are quick to publicly shame on social media.

“In the same way that bumper stickers are the most shallow form of political expression, social media grousing is the thinnest form of customer complaints,” says Baer. “Though onstage haters may not expect a reply, they definitely desire an audience,” says Baer. “That’s why they raise the stakes and take grievances to a public forum.”

Dealing with these public and private complaints is the next frontier of marketing. The truth is that most companies do very little, if anything. Which costs them customers, dollars and their reputation. Customer service has become a spectator sport and we can’t afford not to get into the game.

Baer, the book and the research that the book is base don all say the same thing:

Answer every complaint, in every channel, every time. Admittedly, it’s not easy to hug your haters. It takes cultural alignment, resource allocation, speed, a thick skin and an unwavering belief that complaints are an opportunity.

Answer your onstage haters publicly because the opinions of onlookers are the real prize.

Don’t make it your goal to have the final word at all costs. Respond no more than twice to an onstage hater and then move on. “Violating the Rule of Reply Only Twice can drag you down into a vortex of negativity and hostility, and it’s also a waste of your time,” says Baer.

And offer to resolve the issue offline with your onstage hater. It’s tough to solve a complex problem with 140 characters on Twitter.  You also don’t want anyone sharing personal information in full view of your digital onlookers.
So if you’re a business owner who’s not on social media, start paying attention to what’s being said about you and be ready to respond.  Hug, and never mug, your onstage haters. They’re playing to the crowd and so should you.

How you respond will differentiate your company from all the businesses that stay silent or have no clue what’s being said online, says Baer. “In today’s world, meaningful differences between businesses are rarely rooted in price or product, but instead in customer experience. Hugging your haters gives you the chance to turn lemons into lemonade, morph bad news into good and keep the customers you already have. So few companies hug their haters that those that make the commitment are almost automatically differentiated and noteworthy when compared to their competitors.”

The book is packed with real life examples from companies of all sizes and a ton of data based on research Jay did with partners Edison Research. Jay also reached out to many other thought leaders to get their take.

The truth is — this is a daunting time for us as business leaders and marketers. Evolving your culture to respond to every comment, complaint and review is a whole new landscape for all of us. But the consequences of not doing are even more daunting.

Luckily for you — I have five copies of Jay’s book Hug Your Haters to give away. AND for one lucky winner — I have a pair of Hug Your Hater socks. To be eligible to win the book/socks — leave a comment.

13 comments on “Are you ready to hug your haters?

  1. Mike Johnson says:

    Love this article and book. I would love to include this in one of my storytelling talks.

    Please include me in your LUCKY giveaway!


  2. Brian Burnam says:

    It goes along with the thought “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

  3. Debra Helwig says:

    Hmmm…then comes the question – in a moderate sized company (400 employees) with a marketing department, who does the hugging? Is it worth the potential time delay to have people forward hater comments to marketing? It increases the likelihood of consistent response – but I always struggle with “fish for them or teach them to fish” in cases like this. GREAT POST and I can’t wait to read more.

  4. Kevin Sime says:

    In a day where people skip past product descriptions to read buyer reviews and where Yelp-style sites continue to grow, allowing negative feedback to go unaddressed is a kiss of death.

    We also live in a time where people expect instant responses. Leaving responses until “I get my work done first” used to be a viable option. Integrating social media “conversations” into your day-to-day business has become critical–I’d even make a run at arguing it’s more important than your traditional marketing and advertising.

    A former leader of mine used to say “Pay attention to what I say. Pay even more attention to what I do.” When you constructively engage with your “haters” via social media you show how committed you are to quality products and great service. People may not always be able to readily tell whose product is better. But everyone can tell who us actually committed to quality service and quality products. Don’t lose the opportunity to show them what you’re really made of!

  5. “Hugging your haters” is a great attitude to adopt, because, it’s true – social is not going way, so you ignore negative feedback at your own peril. But also, we don’t learn the most valuable lessons from people who tell us how great we are. We improve by accepting and examining criticism and then making necessary changes. Sometimes haters can be the best friend your brand ever had! Thanks for the post, Drew.

  6. Natasha Calvert says:

    Did I miss the giveaway? Great article. I am going to get the book either way.

    1. Nope — going to draw on Sunday.

  7. Nesanel says:

    Nice post. Another key in hugging your haters is confronting whats wrong with your business. That in itself is a great growing process!

  8. Britney says:

    I absolutely love the idea of “hugging your haters,” and couldn’t agree more. In an age where customers expect responses within just a few short hours on social media, it’s more important than ever to have a strong response strategy in place to deal with negative (and positive) feedback.

  9. Brad Long says:

    PLEASE include me in the drawing! I. Want. This. Book. And I know about 9 other people who’d love it too!

  10. Julie Cahill says:

    Hi. This is Julie Cahill. I like teal, so teal socks would look good on me. Important to love your friends and keep your enemies closer. lol

  11. sindhu says:

    The complaint is a lesson on how to improve your process and sometimes your people. It provides data that shows you what isn’t working. “Hugging your haters” is the great thought i like the concept. Drew Mclellan, Thanks for sharing fantastic article.

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