28 Apr Why Online Haters Are Your Most Important Customers
Admittedly, it’s not easy to hug your haters – those who share legitimate complaints or go as far as spewing negativity and toxic comments in public forums. But customer service has become a spectator sport, and business owners need to understand the game in order to play to win.
Complaints come in multiple formats, in many channels of communication, and degrees of intensity. In Jay Baer’s research with Edison, conducted for his new book, Hug Your Haters, he discovered that there are two main types of haters. These two groups of haters differ demographically, in the frequency of their complaints, in their use and embrace of technology, and in how and where they choose to complain.
Understanding the two types of haters, and the differences between them, will enable you to spot them in the wild, and provide the support and succor each requires. Knowing your haters gives you a much better chance of being able to tap into the benefits of hugging them, because handling a hater incorrectly is almost as bad as not handling them at all.
Offstage haters go direct and complain less
The first group are Offstage Haters. This group almost always complains first in a private, one-to-one format, often telephone or email. Offstage haters are also slightly older, less mobile and social media savvy, and they complain somewhat less frequently on an annual basis.
Even though complaints from offstage haters are private, they are often less strident and outlandish than many of the public complaints in social media and review websites. This is particularly true of email complaints.
Telephone complaints come with a different set of circumstances. Because they are synchronous in a way that no other hater outlet is (even the best social media customer service teams take a few minutes to respond), the opportunity to unleash your wrath on the living embodiment of your ire is difficult to resist.
You‘re already being forced (or feel like you‘re being forced) to take your time to complain. Then, perhaps you‘ve been stewing on hold for a while. Next, the person who is assigned to assist you doesn‘t understand the situation, can‘t easily access the information needed to address the issue, lacks empathy, or doesn‘t take any responsibility for his or her employer‘s shortcoming.
You‘re being “helped” but not being heard. It just throws fuel on the fire.
Onstage haters go public and are more outlandish
The second type of haters are onstage haters. These folks almost always complain first in a public venue—social media, review sites, discussion boards, or forums. Compared to offstage haters, this group is slightly younger, certainly more mobile, with more technology and social media savvy. Onstage haters also tend to complain more often, partially because they can do so from their smartphone in a matter of seconds.
Today, for most businesses, offstage haters are still the majority, and most customer complaints are made in a private format. Jay’s research found that 62 percent of complaints are first made via telephone or email. But the balance of power between offstage and onstage haters is shifting rapidly due to ease of use and perceived differences in outcomes.
Companies that address onstage complaints – those that are made in social media or a public forum – or even acknowledge positive or neutral feedback, have a chance to dramatically boost customer advocacy. That alone is a good reason to hug those haters on social media, review sites, and discussion boards.
It doesn‘t end with the one hater, though. Onstage, customer service is a spectator sport – and every onlooker is a potential customer.
As I told Jay when he interviewed me for his book:
“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn‘t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching.”
As a consumer, when you encounter the opposite, a business that really and truly puts customer first, they don‘t even have to tell you it‘s so, because you can feel it. These are the company cultures where delivering a great customer experience is baked in at the molecular level.
In an instant, you can probably name five or 10 local or national companies that always make you feel like a valued customer. It‘s not a coincidence that those companies are also often great at customer service, and committed to hugging their haters.
We can easily name customer experience cultures because they are rare. Their scarcity contributes mightily to their memorability. These companies are exceptional, in the truest definition of the word.
The financial impact of customer focus is massive
And the financial impact of a focus on customers – especially online- is massive. A five percent increase in customer retention boosts profits by 25 to 85 percent. That‘s not a new discovery; it was published in a case study in 1990. So, we‘ve known that a focus on customer experience makes sound business sense for 25 years or more, but the companies that execute on it are still outliers. Why?
The above was drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: “This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.