You can do your best to satisfy a customer, but sometimes things do not go according to plan. Even if you deliver on your promises and provide great customer service and assist them in any way possible, they may start to complain. In some cases, you screwed up and their complaints have merit. In other cases, they are being unreasonable or they are in a bad mood for some other reason.

But how do you handle these people? Lately, I have been reading a book by Jay Baer, “Hug Your Haters,” which talks about a positive way to deal with people who are being rude or disrespectful or loud at your establishment. This method can also work for people who complain over the phone or on the internet.

Two Types of Haters

The first thing you have to understand is how there are two main types of haters. First, we have our “offstage haters,” who are always complaining to companies in person or via telephone or on the internet. They want answers immediately and they want their issues addressed.

Secondly, we have “onstage haters,” who are always complaining in a public forum such as social media sites and review sites or forums. They do not even care if they get a response, because they want everyone to know about their supposedly bad experience with your company.

The method for handling complainers varies based on whether they are offstage or onstage haters. Most of the complainers you are going to encounter are the offstage variety, but the second group is growing more with each passing year, because of how easy it is to complain through Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. In fact, many people will complain about prominent companies as a means to get more attention themselves.

In the book, Baer talks about how there are so many comments being delivered publicly that we may not even refer to as complaints if they were delivered in a private setting. For instance, many of these messages talk about how the customer had a slightly bad or annoying or frustrating experience with a company.

These onstage haters are not only going to complain about the littlest of things, but they also complain more frequently than offstage haters. They want to get more attention on social media, or they feel as if they have some axe to grind with a particular company or industry. They do not even care if you reply, because getting their issue resolved would mean they have to talk about something else on social media!

But as Baer mentions, companies have an opportunity with both offstage and onstage haters. As long as you know how to properly answer them, you can use their complaining to your advantage. That is why Baer created something he calls a “Hatrix,” which tells you what to expect from a hater based on some of their actions.

Hug the Haters

But how are you going to deal with these prickly individuals, much less hug them? it can get complicated, and it varies based on how they are complaining. On some channels, all you have to do is post a comment in reply to what they said. For other channels, you may have to take steps to contact them directly in order to find a way to bridge the gap.

The concept of hugging your haters means that you have to make an effort to reply to each comment or complaint you receive, on all channels. While Baer admits that it is practically impossible to reply to every single comment or complaint, the effort is what counts in such a scenario. He has two playbooks designed to deal with offstage and onstage haters:

The “HOURS” playbook applies to offstage haters:

– Act like a human

– Use one channel

– Unify all data

– Resolve the problem quickly

– Use speed and tact when dealing with a customer

The “FEARS” playbook works better for onstage haters:

– Look for all the relevant mentions

– Show empathy to someone who is complaining

– Answer them in the same public forum

– Only reply one time

– Alternate channels


What are the Next Steps?

These are the broad strokes of a more in-depth strategy that you must employ if you want to deal with the haters. How can you use these strategies to handle haters within your company? And are you getting more haters onstage or offstage?

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