Why Hugging Your Haters Matters, and How to Do It

best practices for profitability

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Your customer experience should be transparent, direct, and social. It should be proactive and reactive, and you should engage with everyone, regardless of the types of insights they share. That’s the premise behind recently-released book, Hug Your Haters, by Jay Baer, who has provided data-backed metrics to support the reasoning that it helps to engage with your customers.

Not only does it support the notion of customer advocacy, it also makes your brand approachable.

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Put simply, even if someone is just posting on social media for the attention (and as Jay establishes in his book, people are more freely using social media to complain about products today than ever before), if the brand engages, they could turn that customer into a real fan. But ignoring them means you don’t want to deal with them as a customer and want the problem to go away. (It doesn’t always go away.)

The whole mindset behind approachability is something that not all brands have embraced. Some brands in particular are notorious about purposely being unreachable.

Know what I’d do as your prospective customer? I’d hope you have a competitor I can put my dollars into.

And so I’d like to outline a few steps that help make your brand more approachable, so that you, too, can “hug your haters.”

Establish a Social Media Customer Service Policy

It’s important to really focus on having customer service via social media. This is where people like to yell the loudest about the most mundane things just to have an audience, according to Jay.

It’s something that even social media service-agnostic brands have recently embraced, with previously-completely-silent Apple now taking the helm in social media with a new(ish) support-specific account that already has nearly 300,000 followers and which tweeted more than 500 times in its first few hours, engaging an audience on all matters related to Apple product support.

If you’re responsive to your customers in a social media realm, which as we recall is a public realm, you are also giving off the impression to these customers’ fans that you are there for them. That’s an important message to convey.

Let’s reiterate what we said in the previous section: If you had to choose between a customer-focused brand (as far as you can tell on social media) and a brand that has not engaged in, well, ever, would you go with the former over the latter, with all other things being equal?

Rumor has it that customer service is going to be a much bigger deal in 2020. Just ask the author of Hug Your Haters.

Take that Mindset to Your Website

The idea of having a website that makes customers able to engage with you is an even newer idea that needs to be explored.

This is especially true because most companies don’t even know about this!

Facebook has been around since 2004. Twitter has been around since 2006. And new website in-app messengers have been around since 2011, with Intercom launching then followed by the freemium tool, Nudgespot.

How many of you were really doing social media marketing in 2006 when Twitter had just come out? What about in 2009 when people started writing books about it? (I wrote this book.)

Right. Most of you probably didn’t. And what did you see? Social media was probably a lot of smoke and mirrors when you started late. The early adopter got the worm.

You’re in a position right now with customer experience, which still has a very low bar, to engage with customers and truly rock it.

With tools that are super easy to integrate like Nudgespot or Intercom, which simply requires a little piece of code to be pasted on your website, you can be up and running to create a significantly powerful tool for engaging with your customers on all facets of your business, from sales to marketing to support.

Make it easy for people to approach you. Once you have the framework in place, it gets people excited; they know how to get in touch and you can really create amazing experiences for them where they will tell people about the experiences that they had with you.

Best Practices for Profitability

Just because something happens on a social media platform doesn’t mean that you need to bend your policies to address the needs of the loudest complainer. It is important to make sure your responsiveness style is the same whether on a social platform, an email platform, a phone platform, or on your website.

I’ve certainly seen people come to me in a social customer service capacity who are upset by the response given to them by customer service agents who did exactly as they were supposed to do per company policy and procedure. Yet if the customers don’t hear what they want to hear, you are a bad service provider and they’ll let you know about this via a different venting platform, most notably, social media.

It’s important to stick to your policies and procedures here, and not change your tune just because the venue of disapproval has changed. Again, once you have that audience, any customer watching you communicate with that customer is going to want the same treatment.

You wouldn’t want to change the policy for one person, only to have another customer catch wind of you giving in, especially if that customer had the same issue and also wants you to give in. Customers will do that, especially because they do talk to each other. And companies that make too many exceptions where it’s not profitable to do so could really get hurt by the repeated bending of the rules.

If it works for you, by all means, go for it. It’s not lucrative for smaller businesses on slim profit margins to do, but then again, there’s an uptake in advocacy if you do something like this, which could amount not only to customer retention but to creation of brand ambassadors.

It would be better to create a cohesive customer service policy that ensures that team A (your email team) knows exactly how team B (your social media team) is handling matters, and that team A doesn’t deviate from the protocols that are used by team B. Customers respect policies, even if they’re not ideal. They will be thrown off if you flip-flop across departments and may lose trust in you as a brand.

The choice of your best practices for profitability is yours. The decision to engage with your customers, however, is a no-brainer. It’s important to build relationships with your customers, especially when they reach out with the objective of getting your attention and to have them respond to you. Don’t miss the opportunity to build bridges with your customers, because those customers can ultimately build your business.

Hug Photo via Shutterstock

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Tamar Weinberg Tamar is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. She does behind the scenes work as well as advertising sales for the Small Business Trends network, and occasionally you'll see her write articles like this one here.

4 Reactions
  1. It is hard. But when you do it, something magical happens. They suddenly change their minds about you.

  2. It is always better to have a set of rules. This way, you have some guidelines for you and your customer service team so that you can address inquiries consistently.

  3. It is always better to go the other mile for your customers. But if there is a complaint, the natural reaction is to cover your ears. Don’t. This is the best time to listen.

  4. Tamara: I wouldn’t “hug my haters,” but I understand the importance of constructive feedback. I will check out Jay Baer’s new book. Did you listen to Chris Brogan’s interview with J.B?

    Your post is a great base for creating a new media policy that could become integrated with the general way of communication throughout an organization.

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