Hug Your Haters? Maybe It’s Love Your Lovers!

Depositphotos 9755377 s

Jay Baer’s closing keynote was one of the best I’ve seen at Social Media Marketing World. Jay discussed his upcoming book, Hug Your Haters. His presentation was fantastic and teased some amazing research from Tom Webster and his team on how investment in resolving complaints swiftly and strategically would grow your business.

The presentation speaks to some fantastic examples of companies responding to complaints and how it’s good for business.

I’m a skeptic. In fact, the year before at Social Media Marketing World I did a presentation where I took the top blunders of companies on social media and proved that none of the blunders had a long-term, negative impact on the companies that made them.

On Facebook recently, Jay shared some personal observations of airline service and I was instantly reminded of this amazing discussion between comedian Louis CK and Conan O’Brien.

While I’m amazed at the incredible technology available at consumers’ fingertips nowadays, I’m also disappointed daily at the continuous drumbeat of company bashing that I see online.

Should Apple Hug Its Haters?

A great example that I can speak to first hand is Apple. I’m a huge fan of Apple. I was one of the nut-cases that set his alarm for 3AM EST and bought the first batch of Apple Watches. I can’t wait to get it in my hands.

Read online and there’s a resounding echo of techies, bloggers, and Apple-haters hating on the watch. They’re everywhere… and none of their opinions matter to me. And I don’t think any of their opinions should matter to Apple. Too expensive, lack of innovation, quality and speed issues… all complaints from the haters. Hey haters… a million sold in a day and now on back order beyond June. Haters weren’t going to by the Apple Watch anyways, why would you hug them?

DK New Media Fires Haters and Loves Its Lovers

Last year, after recovering from a tumultuous year prior, we started our recovery. Many of our issues were my fault. We expanded without the necessary resources and then scrambled to fill the gap. Rather than working hard to identify the right customers, we took on almost everyone asking for our help… and it was a nightmare. We wound up even designing an infographic about the types of customers we were burning through.

We accepted work with a lot of clients that were just abusive and cheap. They didn’t look at us as a partner, they looked at us like a challenge to squeeze every last penny out of. I didn’t hug our haters, we fired them.

We now put extraordinary effort into prequalifying our customers and ensuring that we’re a great fit culturally with one another and that we believe we can succeed in working with them. The difference is night and day. We’re having our best year ever, we’re expanding our footprint, we’re happy, and the work we’re doing is far better than we were before.

Trying to please our haters was exhausting. And so we don’t try anymore. If someone badmouths us, we simply respond honestly to them – whether it’s public or private. Sometimes we lock horns, but most of the time we simply walk away. We need to focus our attention on customers that appreciate us, not the ones that would never hire us, recommend us, and that sit back taking pot shots at us.

Hug your haters? Too much effort. I’d rather love my lovers. They’re the ones that spread the word, expand their engagements with us, find us more customers, and appreciate what we accomplish for them.

Do Winners Bother With Haters?

When I look to business, sports, politics, or any other successful leader – I almost always see people that ignored their haters and carved out their own success. The failures I’ve seen have been people that listened to everyone, tried to please everyone, and could never meet the impossible expectations set by the market.

When I look at industries like mobile, cable, utilities, airlines and others… I see consumers making demands well beyond the value of the product or service they’re willing to pay for. And if they’re not getting what they want, they throw a hissy fit online for the public to see. And if the company tries to serve them better and add a few more bucks to their bill, the consumers bail for the next lower cost solution.

My guess is that if ______ airlines treated their customers even worse, they’d still have packed airplanes heading to their next destination full of customers who used an online search to find the lowest price. I don’t think most haters even care about the airline company, they’re going to complain regardless. And most of the airlines have hubs laid out where it’s almost impossible to get away from their brand even if you did care.

Want Love? Pay for It!

On the other hand, if I pay for business class, buy luxury vehicles, spend money on the extended warranty or insurance, or spring for the more expensive laptop, I never seem to have the problems that others run into. Delta’s traveler lounge – for example – is AMAZING and you can buy access on most trips for a little extra. While everyone is waiting on the ticket agent, I grab a drink and the Delta representative took down my name and swings into action getting me on my way. No fuss, no muss… I both appreciated it and I paid for it.

Paying extra, I get fantastic service, almost no wait times, and instantaneous responses. If I’m going to demand the best, I should be willing to pay for it. If I can’t afford the best, I should be content with what’s left.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll put forth a sincere effort to try to flip an unhappy customer. I owe at least that much because they made an investment with us. But if they’re just miserable or mistreat me or our staff, ain’t nobody got time for dat! I think there’s a significant percentage of haters online that companies should tell to bugger off.

Jay… you’ve got your work cut out.


  1. 1

    Great post Doug, thank you.

    A couple of things. I’m not talking about big blunders and social media-fueled crises. None of the example in the keynote were like that, and none of the examples in the book will be that, either. What I’m talking about are the day-to-day negative comments, complaints, 1 and 2-star reviews that companies of nearly all sizes and types respond to inconsistently, if at all.

    Does it take a lot of work to respond to every complaint, every time, in every channel? Of course. But the research we conducted shows that the increase in customer advocacy when you response to a complaint is considerable, and the decrease in customer advocacy when you ignore negativity is even greater.

    Can some companies afford to ignore negative comments and complaints? Yes. But those companies are not common.

    And I also want to clarify that the Hug Your Haters prescription is NOT that the customer is always right. It’s not true, and it’s not prudent to run your business that way. The prescription is instead that the customer is always HEARD. Huge difference. In fact, while I didn’t get into the granularity in the talk, my recommendation is that you never respond more than twice to a single thread/complaint/blog post, etc. Diminishing returns at that point, typically.

    Also important to note is the difference between the Offstage Haters who complain in private, and the Onstage Haters who complain in public. The key is understanding that the former wants an answer, and the latter wants an audience. Negativity is a spectator sport now, and while you may (rightfully) want to tell an aggrieved (or annoying) customer to F-OFF the reality is that especially with the Onstage Haters, the real danger is not in losing that customer, but rather in what the onlookers think about your company and your values.

  2. 3

    I have always thought about it with the simple view that “the customer isn’t always right,… but they are the customer”. So, that causes me to slow down and respond appropriately – seeking to understand what the real problem is and what might be a reasonable response and solution. That has guided my efforts to “hug the hater.”

    • 4

      I’m honestly not a fan, Curt. I think sometimes people are just jerks and their bad behavior shouldn’t be condoned. Easier said than done when you own the business I guess!

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.