How to Handle Haters

t happens. You do your best to satisfy your customers, to deliver on all of your promises, provide great customer service and create what Denny Hatch used to call CRM: Customer Relationship Magic. … And then someone starts to complain.

Maybe you screwed up and the complaints are justified. Maybe it’s a malcontent. Maybe it’s a loon. How do you handle them?

Me, I was brought up old school …

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women.

But maybe that isn’t the best attitude to bring into customer service. I’ve been reading Jay Baer’s “Hug Your Haters,” which offers a warmer, fuzzier approach to handling these bad-wishers by not treating them like enemies at all. (To be fair, most Internet complainers are out of sword range anyway.)

The 2 Types of Haters

Hug Your Haters, Jay BaerBaer starts with the well-researched assertion that there are two types of complainers.

  • Offstage Haters: Complain to the company in person via a channel like phone, email or direct chat, and want to have their issues addressed. They want an answer.
  • Onstage Haters: Almost always complain publicly via social media, review sites, forums or other public channels, and they don’t necessarily expect a response. They want an audience.

For most companies, most complainers are still in the first category. But the second group is younger and growing fast. In fact, Baer notes that social media itself is making complaining publicly far easier. Specifically, social media makes shallow complaints easier. The kind of post a person might make in a minute, then spend the rest of the day on it, exchanging heated comments with friends.

“When delivered online and in public, a lot of what we call complaints would be classified as a comment if delivered offline, if delivered at all,” says Baer in the book. “Annoyances that formerly would have qualified for an inner monologue of ‘oh, that sucks’ now spur a ‘oh, that sucks and I should share it with the world.’”

Not only do onstage haters complain more easily, they complain more vehemently, upping the rhetoric against the company in order to break through the social media clutter and get that attention.

And, as you saw in Dani Cantor’s post last week, often onstage complainers don’t even want you to reply.

According to Baer, both offstage and onstage haters offer opportunities to brands who understand what they want, and how and when to answer them. He’s created a sort of matrix, called “The Hatrix,” of what you can expect from both kinds of haters based on where they complain and how you respond.

Jay Baer's The Hatrix from Hug Your HatersHow to Hug Your Haters

How exactly do you hug these potentially prickly people? That gets complicated. It depends on the channel they’ve complained in. On some channels, it’s as simple as making a reply comment. On others, you need to take steps to get into direct contact, or find another way to bridge the gap.

“The Hug Your Haters approach is to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time,” says Baer. Even though he acknowledges that it “almost never happens.” There are just too many obstacles for most businesses to deliver on that promise.

The solution he offers are two “playbooks.” One for dealing with offstage haters, and the other for dealing with onstage haters.

For offstage haters, the playbook is “HOURS.”

  • Human (act like one)
  • One Channel
  • Unify Your Data
  • Resolve the Issue
  • Speed (resolve it quickly)

For onstage haters, the playbook is “FEARS.”

  • Find All Mentions
  • Empathy (show it to the complainer)
  • Answer Publicly
  • Reply Only Once
  • Switch Channels

Next Steps

Those are the broad strokes of a very in-depth strategy for dealing with haters. How does that compare to how you handle your haters at your own company? Are you seeing more offstage haters or onstage?

For more on the situation and the strategies, check out Jay Baer’s book, “Hug Your Haters.”

And if you’d like to hear it from Jay Baer himself, be sure to catch the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference, where he’ll be the opening keynote speaker. Baer will be discussing all of these topics and more live during the session!


Kirkwood Direct is largest service provider that offers comprehensive and effective end-to-end direct marketing communications solutions to their clients. It offers various services like Data Management/ Data Acquisition, Commercial Printing, Mailing Services, E-marketing and many more. Call (978) 642-0300 or visit site.





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