View Twitter chat schedule: #SMTLive

Learning to "Hug Your Haters" with Jay Baer

When Jay Baer set out to write another book following his New York Times bestseller, Youtility, he thought he was going to write about the need for speed in both marketing and customer service. But a proprietary study he commissioned with Edison Research pushed him a different direction.

“While speed is important and is getting more important, it is not the most important,” Baer says. “What is more important is actually showing up.” With that, Baer changed his thesis. “Complainers aren’t your problem,” he proposes. “Ignoring them is.” Hug Your Haters was born.

At least 1/3 of all customer complaints go unanswered, according to Baer, and “people are sick of being ignored”. Even when brands do respond, they are often not meeting customer expectations in terms of response time. For example, while 40% of people who expect a response in social media expect it within an hour, the average response time from brands is almost 5 hours.

“It’s 2016 and while everybody assumes that everybody is good at customer service, turns out they’re not,” says Baer. His solution and the mantra to Hug Your Haters? “Answer every customer complaint, in every channel, every time.”

“The customer is not always right, but the customer always deserves to be heard,” Baer adds.

The book describes two kinds of haters: Offstage haters use traditional customer service channels such as phone and email, and usually desire a resolution to their problem. Onstage haters, on the other hand, us public channels such as social media, forums, and review sites, and usually desire a sympathetic audience more than a resolution.

“We treat customers so differently online where customer service is in fact public compared to how we treat customers offline,” Baer says. “We probably have it upside down.”

In social media particularly, customer service has become a “spectator sport,” with many complainers looking for the “empathy tsunami” from friends and followers that invariably comes from publicly complaining about a bad experience. When brands respond to these complainers, “it blows their minds and steals their hearts” because they don’t expect it, says Baer.

In fact, the book’s research revealed that answering just one customer complaint can increase customer advocacy by up to 25%, even if that complaint isn’t fully resolved. “You get way more credit just for answering than you do extra credit for actually resolving,” Baer notes. But not responding is “playing roulette with people’s emotions”.

This is just some of the knowledge that Jay Baer shared when he took some time to talk with me and Dan Moriarty live on Blab about how to hug your haters. The recording was converted into Episode 25 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast, which is surely worth your time to listen.


Here are some key moments of the episode and where to find them:

1:52 Jay’s transition from Youtility (a content marketing bible) to Hug Your Haters (a guide to great customer service)

5:02 Why Hug Your Haters was almost called 43 Minutes

6:15 Why a lack of response in social media is actually a response

8:43 Are there any industries which can afford NOT to have good customer service?

12:52 The difference between “onstage haters” and “offstage haters” including their very different expectations

15:46 Is there a difference in expected response between social media and forums or review sites?

16:34 What are the mental hurdles that executives need to overcome to commit resources to social customer service?

17:55 The metrics that are critical to measuring customer service success

19:30 How one company “turned hate into help” by asking their complainers for even more feedback

23:30 Enough about haters, what about lovers?

27:38 How important is response time in the social customer service equation?

36:21 The trend from private customer service (phone) to public (social media), and back to private but on public channels (Facebook Messenger)

39:30 Where is the customer service journey going?

Members of the live Blab audience then got an opportunity to ask their own questions, which are below.

42:50 What’s the risk of responding to haters?

47:05 How Facebook and Twitter are focusing on customer service and what that means for businesses and consumers

49:24 Can you reduce the number of haters by communicating on the platforms that they want to interact on rather than the ones companies want to use?

51:20 How can livestreaming be integrated into customer service delivery?

54:52 How can companies ensure they resolve customer complaints rather than deflecting to other channels, especially when they can’t verify the authenticity of the customer?

58:22 Where should a company draw the line between engagement and customer service?

Dan and I would like to thank everyone for listening to (and reading about) the first 25 episodes of the Focus on Customer Service podcast. We’re looking forward to the next 25! As always, if you have had a great experience with a brand on social media, let us know by tweeting at us or using the hashtag #FOCS. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

The unedited video of the interview can be found here.

Join The Conversation

  • dgingiss's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 1 year ago dgingiss

    Thanks for reading, Christine. Jay gets into more detail in the book (and in the podcast!) about how to deal with angry customers. His first rule is to only engage twice and no more. But above all, I'd personally say it's not necessary to engage with trolls other than to respond once and try to take them offline. 

  • christinejames's picture
    Feb 18 Posted 1 year ago christinejames

    Jay is awesome. I read his posts in quite a few places online. Although, sometimes he makes these challenges out to be much easier than they are. Have you ever had to deal with an angry customer? You would not want to hug them at all.

Webinars On Demand

  • May 09, 2017
    With all of the technologies available to marketers today, have we lost that personal touch? Join VP of Content Marketing for ON24, Mark Bornste...
  • April 05, 2017
    In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, operational efficiency, quick turn-around times, testing and adapting to change are crucial to...