How to Handle Haters

It happens. You do your best to satisfy your customers, to deliver on all of your promises, provide great customer service and create CRM: Customer Relationship Magic. … And then someone starts to complain. Maybe you screwed up and the complaints are justified. Maybe it’s a malcontent. Maybe it’s a loon. How do you handle them?

It happens. You do your best to satisfy your customers, to deliver on all of your promises, provide great customer service and create what Denny Hatch used to call CRM: Customer Relationship Magic. … And then someone starts to complain.

Maybe you screwed up and the complaints are justified. Maybe it’s a malcontent. Maybe it’s a loon. How do you handle them?

Me, I was brought up old school …

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women.
That’s “Conan The Barbarian” from 1982, which makes him a Millennial.

But maybe that isn’t the best attitude to bring into customer service. I’ve been reading Jay Baer’s “Hug Your Haters,” which offers a warmer, fuzzier approach to handling these bad-wishers by not treating them like enemies at all. (To be fair, most Internet complainers are out of sword range anyway.)

The 2 Types of Haters

Hug Your Haters, Jay BaerBaer starts with the well-researched assertion that there are two types of complainers.

  • Offstage Haters: Complain to the company in person via a channel like phone, email or direct chat, and want to have their issues addressed. They want an answer.
  • Onstage Haters: Almost always complain publicly via social media, review sites, forums or other public channels, and they don’t necessarily expect a response. They want an audience.

For most companies, most complainers are still in the first category. But the second group is younger and growing fast. In fact, Baer notes that social media itself is making complaining publicly far easier. Specifically, social media makes shallow complaints easier. The kind of post a person might make in a minute, then spend the rest of the day on it, exchanging heated comments with friends.

“When delivered online and in public, a lot of what we call complaints would be classified as a comment if delivered offline, if delivered at all,” says Baer in the book. “Annoyances that formerly would have qualified for an inner monologue of ‘oh, that sucks’ now spur a ‘oh, that sucks and I should share it with the world.'”

Not only do onstage haters complain more easily, they complain more vehemently, upping the rhetoric against the company in order to break through the social media clutter and get that attention.

And, as you saw in Dani Cantor’s post last week, often onstage complainers don’t even want you to reply.

According to Baer, both offstage and onstage haters offer opportunities to brands who understand what they want, and how and when to answer them. He’s created a sort of matrix, called “The Hatrix,” of what you can expect from both kinds of haters based on where they complain and how you respond.

Jay Baer's The Hatrix from Hug Your HatersHow to Hug Your Haters

How exactly do you hug these potentially prickly people? That gets complicated. It depends on the channel they’ve complained in. On some channels, it’s as simple as making a reply comment. On others, you need to take steps to get into direct contact, or find another way to bridge the gap.

“The Hug Your Haters approach is to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time,” says Baer. Even though he acknowledges that it “almost never happens.” There are just too many obstacles for most businesses to deliver on that promise.

The solution he offers are two “playbooks.” One for dealing with offstage haters, and the other for dealing with onstage haters.

For offstage haters, the playbook is “HOURS.”

  • Human (act like one)
  • One Channel
  • Unify Your Data
  • Resolve the Issue
  • Speed (resolve it quickly)

For onstage haters, the playbook is “FEARS.”

  • Find All Mentions
  • Empathy (show it to the complainer)
  • Answer Publicly
  • Reply Only Once
  • Switch Channels

Next Steps

Those are the broad strokes of a very in-depth strategy for dealing with haters. How does that compare to how you handle your haters at your own company? Are you seeing more offstage haters or onstage?

For more on the situation and the strategies, check out Jay Baer’s book, “Hug Your Haters.”

And if you’d like to hear it from Jay Baer himself, be sure to catch the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference, where he’ll be the opening keynote speaker. Baer will be discussing all of these topics and more live during the session!

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

5 thoughts on “How to Handle Haters”

  1. Haters?
    Why is this term even being used in conjunction with a business is beyond me. It’s ridiculous and unprofessional. Terms like this make me think of a 3 year old throwing a tantrum.
    I learned something long ago. If a customer has a complaint, do your best to satisfy them. However, no matter what you do some don’t want to be satisfied, they just want to gripe. For those customers the best thing I have found to do is to reply to their issues with a concise, accurate reply asking questions of your own. It also helps if you have other customers on your side posting experiences they have had at your business. Sometimes bad reviews are posted by people who work for your competition. Those tend to come back and haunt them after a while. Sometimes, if the situation is completely ridiculous, people will take a comment with a grain of salt. You cannot please everyone. Absolutely try to do the best job you can.

    1. I’m sure Baer used “Haters” on the book because it’s eye-catching and syncs up with popular usage (“haters gonna hate”). I used it in this article because it’s the core idea in the title of his book.

      Beyond that, the book does talk about haters and complainers quite a bit, but I think that’s fair language for how many marketers look at these situations. It’s honest, and sets up the core idea of flipping brand haters into brand lovers.

      It may not be the most sanitized phrasing, but I think the plain truth value of it makes up for that roughness.

  2. I’m applying this to real life at my new job. I have several co-workers who hate, gossip and complain about me to the owner; in an attempt to change his perceptions of me. If I apply these tactics and successfully engage each time, perhaps this issue will go away sooner rather than later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *