Customer Service in the Modern World: Why It’s Time to Hug Your Haters

November 21,2016

You see them everywhere.

The teenagers walking around with their heads down, oblivious to oncoming pedestrian traffic. The moms in line at the store, one hand on the stroller, the other browsing for the coupon that came through their email. The business professional in the line at the coffee shop, focusing intensely on the day’s stock market coverage in between calls via Bluetooth.

Face it folks, the digital age has taken over. From calculating how long it will take for your beer to chill to running a seismometer on your phone in the middle of an earthquake, there’s an app for everything, literally. With tweets, pings, YO’s, snaps, and bitmojis, there are lingo and platforms that make it easy for users to publish, post, and ❤ content instantaneously and, oftentimes, unsolicited. This includes—for better or worse—customer reviews.

A few of us in Fingerpaint’s Scottsdale office decided to embrace the “reviews” culture of the digital age and learn more about ways to help our clients manage negative feedback, appreciate proud customers, and maintain a consistent brand presence online, without ending up “on blast” for customer relationship management (CRM) gone wrong.

Interestingly enough, it sounds like pretty much everyone with a computer can benefit from a refresher on exceptional customer service. As part of our own professional development, we read Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters, an insightful, yet entertaining guide to embracing complaints and retaining customers in the modern world of CRM. In it, Jay Baer notes that while 80% of businesses believe they deliver exceptional customer service, a mere 8% of customers agree.

Yikes, right?

So whether you’re a consumer, a business owner, or a company’s social media manager, it’s safe to say we can all benefit a little bit from his expertise.

Hug Your Haters is all about rewarding and appreciating your customers and, well, hugging the haters. The entire concept is set around accepting feedback as a way to improve the way your business operates, turn unhappy customers into happy or neutral customers, reward current customers, and create customer advocates to shout your story to the (virtual) hilltops. The numbers don’t lie either. Baer details that a 5% increase in happy customer retention can boost profits by 25%, and even as much as 85%.

While the first instinct for most people may be to defend themselves, don’t. People who complain are taking the time to tell companies what they can do better, and Baer wants the Internet to see that as a gift. Online haters, or as Baer refers to them, “onstage” haters, want an audience to back up their claims. And it’s proven that word-of-mouth testimonials are more valuable than any regular advertising. So these “haters” are as valuable, and possibly even more valuable, to improving your business than a 5-star review. With that in mind, however, not responding is a response. And it’s one that says, “I don’t care about you.” And, we know that’s not the case.

So how do companies effectively respond to customer reviews, both good and bad, without wasting precious time and money responding to every customer review on every platform 24/7? Here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  • Be human: Ditch that customer service script and cancel the auto-reply templates. They want to hear from a human, not a one-size-fits-all customer service robot.
  • Respond with empathy: Understand that the customer feels there’s a valuable reason for taking the time to provide feedback. You may not agree, but try to understand.
  • Answer publicly: This shows your other customers that you do care about your patrons. They appreciate it, and it sets you apart from your competitors.
  • Reply only twice: Never respond more than twice to the same customer about the same issue in a public channel.
  • Switch channels: Direct the conversation offline as soon as possible. For example, acknowledge the customer’s complaint and ask them to contact you via phone, direct message, or email.

This also applies to positive customer reviews. If they tell you they love you, love them back. This will pave the way for rock-solid customer advocacy and create a growing community of positive reviews and happy customers for your business.

Always remember, the World Wide Web has become a spectator sport, and with improper CRM, it can become a viral social media podium, presenting you as the example of “what not to do.” Tread with caution; respond with speed, compassion, and humanity; and, most importantly, hug your haters.


Published journalist, recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and caffeine enthusiast, Lauren Mendoza is a multifaceted Fingerpainter who splits her time between the public relations and social media teams in the Scottsdale office. When she’s not in the office, merging her passion for storytelling with her love of all things digital, she’s lifting weights at the gym, burning something in the kitchen or planning her wedding on Pinterest.

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