In this edition of Book Notes, COPC Inc.’s marketing director, Jim Von Seggern, provides an overview of Jay Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters.
If Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters had a singular tagline or truism, it would be this: Haters are not your problem . . . ignoring them is. The book provides not only a close examination of reasons why brands should “hug their haters” (and there are plenty), it also breaks down the different types of haters and provides recommendations on how these haters should be handled.
The book is, in part, built around consumer research produced in partnership between the author, Jay Baer, and research group Edison Research. While the research uncovers many intriguing insights, the most powerful propellant for the notion of hugging your haters is this:
Answering complaints increases customer advocacy across all customer service channels, and, conversely, not answering complaints decreases customer advocacy across all customer service channels.
And, to top it off, there is no net-neutral path on this journey. Companies are either helping themselves by acting or hurting themselves by not acting. There is no third option.
Along with the research, Hug Your Haters is also packed with many wonderful examples of companies that are making a valiant attempt at embracing their haters, and often with great success. These companies include names like Spotify, Discover, KLM, and lesser-known brands like Fresh Brothers Pizza. There are even a couple examples where brands have dropped the proverbial ball.
Why Hug Your Haters?
Although the book goes into great detail about why brands should hug their haters and take the time to respond to every complaint (and compliment) in every channel, the benefits can generally be broken down into the following categories:
- a chance to recover and retain unhappy customers
- an opportunity to create advocates for the brand
- a way to gather valuable insights and intelligence about products, services process, and policy
- a powerful differentiator for the brand
The book does a great job of supporting the above benefits with actual examples of how companies, large and small, are taking action to actually do things like retain customers and gain consumer insights from feedback.
Defining the Haters
One of the most intriguing components of the book is the chapter that deals with identifying and characterizing the different types of haters that a company might encounter. These are broken down into two main categories: Onstage Haters (people who complain in a public forum, like on social media) and Offstage Haters (people who complain directly to a company through a private channel, like email). This analysis is further supported by “The Hatrix” — a breakdown of who complained, where and why. This section includes fantastic research on response expectations, satisfaction with response times and the impact on customer advocacy.
The most instructive parts of Hug Your Haters come in chapters 6 and 7. Each of these sections is positioned as a “playbook” for handling the haters, with Chapter 6 devoted to Offstage Haters and Chapter 7 taking aim at Onstage Haters. Like other areas of the book, these sections are filled with real-world examples showing readers how real companies are already successfully executing the principles included in the book.
Each of these playbooks is mnemonically framed. For Offstage Haters, H-O-U-R-S refers to Be Human, Use One Channel, Unify Your Data, and Resolve the Issue with Speed. For Onstage Haters, F-E-A-R-S translates to Find All Mentions, Display Empathy, Answer Publicly, Reply Only Twice and Switch Channels.
Regardless of a brand’s size, the decision of whether or not to engage complaints (and compliments) is having an impact on that brand’s reputation and its revenue. Hug Your Haters is a great read for CX professionals no matter where their brand falls on the wider spectrum of engagement. For brands that are developing strategies for engagement, the book can help illuminate the way forward. For brands that are engaging on a limited basis, the book can inspire and encourage greater activity. And for brands that are all in on customer engagement, Hug Your Haters can help reinforce (or refute) the current approach. There’s little doubt that engaging every complaint (and compliment) on every channel every time takes serious investment, but according to Hug Your Haters, the benefits promise to be enormous.
Part of a Wider Strategy
While the concepts discussed in Hug Your Haters are crucial, they should fit within a wider strategy that also includes managing the customer experience via measurements like Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Customer Dissatisfaction (DSAT), while also collecting, managing and acting on customer feedback. By taking such an approach, brands will not only be more responsive, they’ll also be proactively improving the customer experience by putting the customer first. As a framework for such activities, we invite you to learn about the COPC Customer Experience (CX) Standard, designed around improving the customer experience, while also lowering costs. To learn more about the COPC CX Standard, visit the COPC Inc. website.