Hug Your Haters

Is It Time to Hug Your Social Haters?

If you are wondering what a Taylor Swift song might possibly have to do with your business, read on. In a packed room at Olson's North by Midwest Marketer Summit earlier this month, Jay Baer – best-selling author and social media juggernaut – shared some known but hard truths about the entanglement between social media and customer service. While most brands and companies know they need to be on social media, some struggle with the concept of addressing ‘haters' on those channels.

This sentiment is no surprise if you have spent any time working in social media. Most social marketers and their corporate counterparts have had a front-row seat to the democratization that social media gives individuals and the equal opportunity now available to share both love and hate for brands and products. This new age of customer power has created a huge shift in how people expect to interact with companies.

But all haters are not equal, according to Baer. He revealed part of his ‘hatrix’ to the crowded room of marketers, outlining how he segments brand dissenters. Baer has two groups of haters—offline and onstage.

Offline: Haters who share their discontent through offline channels such as phone and email. Demographically, they tend to be older and complain less in general. Don’t be fooled; while this group is less outwardly angry than their onstage counterparts, offline haters are eager for answers.

Onstage: This group wants an audience and will share their negative views both on their personal social media channels and review sites. Onstage haters tend to be more mobile, which precipitates their ability to complain quickly and more frequently.

Whether offline or online, Jay shared provocative yet simple advice for brands to follow when it comes to dealing with your haters.

1) Empathize

It is easy to forget why haters are upset in the first place. Consider this: 71 percent of onstage haters started as offline haters. Remember that if an onstage hater is sharing their frustration with the Internet, it likely started with a failed offline experience.

2) Fast Is Important, but Be Fast Offstage

Baer shared that the number one driver for customer frustration is customer service hold times. Businesses in general, and across all forms of contact, are taking more time to respond to customers. How slowly are businesses responding to complaints? The average length of time to get back to a customer is 44 hours.

3) Rule of Two

You should never respond more than twice to a customer in public. Responding more than twice is never rewarded, so don’t fall into the “thirst trap.”

Drinking the Haterade Yet?

Haters are the canaries in the coalmines. Harness those complaints as opportunities to engage with customers who don’t expect you to. Think about how you’re making your customer feel, Baer said. Does your brand hug or mug your customers?

Final Thoughts

Irate customers are really customers who love the brand, but have reasoned discontent. Still wondering if it is worth engaging with haters? A recent Bain study showed that brand advocates are worth $9,500 more than detractors. Remember, a nonresponse on social media is a response—it says that you care incredibly little about your customers’ and prospects’ opinions. So haters are not the problem, but ignoring them is, and engaging with your haters is an opportunity to turn them into ravers.

But if that doesn’t work, you can always take Taylor Swift’s advice.

By Rachel DiCaro Metscher | Senior Director of Brand and Marketing Communications | ICF International