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!

Retailers Need to Step Up Online Shopping Experiences for Consumers

The impact of identity theft and a fear of online shopping caused retailers to miss out on $21 billion in online sales in 2008, according to a recently released study by Javelin Strategy & Research, which was co-sponsored by eBillme and First Data.

That’s a whole lot of lost revenue, which could’ve been avoided had retailers paid a little closer attention to online customer service. Check out these other figures:

The impact of identity theft and a fear of online shopping caused retailers to miss out on $21 billion in online sales in 2008, according to a recently released study by Javelin Strategy & Research, which was co-sponsored by eBillme and First Data.

That’s a whole lot of lost revenue, which could’ve been avoided had retailers paid a little closer attention to online customer service. Check out these other figures:

  • 12 percent of fraud victims no longer shop online;
  • 25 percent said the frequency of their online purchases has decreased; and
  • 19 percent said they now spend less money when shopping online.

What’s more, just 45 percent of consumers are satisfied with their online shopping experiences — especially when it comes to on-time arrivals and quality expectations.

Online customer service is tricky stuff, and there’s still plenty to learn and lots of room for improvement. Here are the study’s top five motivating factors that would convince consumers to shop more frequently:

  • assurance that information is being processed securely (83 percent);
  • offering zero liability against identity theft (81 percent);
  • stronger security at the store Web site (80 percent);
  • a guarantee that the purchase will match quality expectations (80 percent); and
  • a guarantee for the best price online (79 percent).

The survey also included the following findings:

  • Of consumers surveyed, 39 percent believed online stores would sell their information, and 50 percent believed they would receive junk mail and spam if they shop online. To address these concerns, retailers need to clearly communicate their data privacy policies.
  • 40 percent of online identity theft victims now only purchase from well-known sites such as Amazon.com. By highlighting security and customer service commitments, smaller retailers can counteract this trend.

So online retailers beware: Consumers are still very concerned about how they’re treated with regards to privacy and security. To keep customers happy — and coming back for more —make sure your practices are up-to-speed in this area.