Why Brands Should “Hug Their Haters”: Jay Baer

Why Brands Should “Hug Their Haters”: Jay Baer

Which-50’s Sahar Yazdani and Joe Brookes continue to report from the Uberflip Experience in Toronto. This time around they scored an audience with marketing guru Jay Baer who says, when it comes to CX, brands and customers have very different expectations…

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

The customer is not always right, but they must be heard — so says business strategist Jay Baer. To do this, companies need to flip their view of complaints as a problem and instead see them as a gift.

“People who complain are actually taking their time to tell us what we can do better and that’s a gift,” he told delegates to the recent Uberflip Experience Conference in Toronto.

There is also a huge disparity between how businesses see their customer service and how a customer sees it, according to Baer. He cited research suggesting 80 per cent of businesses believe they have exceptional customer service, while only eight per cent of the customers agree.

Shrinking this gap requires more attention to customer service. “Globally we spend about $US600 billion a year on marketing and about $US9 billion a year on customer service. That is probably a ratio that needs to be addressed.”

For marketers, great content is often compromised by the operational side of business, through poor customer service and complaint handling.

Baer says responding to complaints may be more important than resolving them. “No response is a response. To prospects who might become your next customers that silence is deafening.”

Baer affectionately refers to these complainers as “haters” and says businesses need to do more to address them. “Haters — the people that complain about your business — are not your problem. Ignoring them is.”

Two types of hate

He said complainers can be split into two categories: off-stage and on-stage. “Off-stage haters complain in private. They complain on the phone and via email.” While on-stage haters are usually younger and more tech savvy — taking to social media express their grievances.

 “Off-stage complainers want an answer while on-stage want an audience”

According to Baer the key difference is off-stage complainers want an answer while on stage want an audience; “What they expect and what they want isn’t necessarily a response. It’s for all their friends to say oh that sucks, I’m so sorry for you”. That’s why online complaints are often outlandish, he said.

Research shows that only half of the on-stage complainers expect a reply. “In many cases they’re not complaining at a business, they’re complaining about a business,” says Baer.

Although there is a subtle and important difference, both complainers should be handled the same way, he said. And, importantly, Baer argued that on-stage complainers present a great new opportunity.

“This is the greatest opportunity to build customer advocacy that you can do right now, easily with very little additional cash,” Baer explained.

Answering customers online when they don’t expected it “blows their minds and wins their hearts” said Baer. This has the bonus of creating customer advocacy as well as retention. It’s hard for a customer not to get excited when a business finds and addresses a complaint that was never intended to solicit a response. “At any point in business … when you massively exceed expectations word of mouth becomes involuntary,” explained Baer.

Attention to on-stage complainers may become unavoidable as the ratio of off-stage to on-stage is shifting, according to Baer. “About 60 per cent of all complaints are still phone and email, but that ratio is changing very very quickly.” This change is because of the comparative ease of on-stage complaining and a shifting demographic.

“Eventually there’s not going to be any calls and it’s all going to be on-stage haters.”

Ratings and review sites are important and can’t be ignored, says Baer. “Eighty-seven per cent of customers trust, at least in some circumstances, as much as they trust friends and family members.”

The shift online means customer service now becomes a concern for marketers as well. Baer believes. “This is the new marketing. Customer service is the new marketing because as it shifts online it becomes part of the marketing story.”

Marketers need to be aware of customer service, and Baer sees the new task as critical: “Customer service is the number-one factor that impacts vendor trust.” Answering every customer, in every channel, every time — or, as Baer describes it, “hugging your haters’ — will prevent businesses from falling into the trap of blaming their customers.