Could Your Critics Actually Be Your Most Valuable Customers?

07.15.2015 Sara Brasfield

“Our haters are not the problem. Ignoring them is the problem.” – Jay Baer.

The rise of social media has made it easier than ever to hear our customers’ complaints. In turn, it is now more important than ever that as a business we address and respond to these concerns in a timely manner. While it may seem easier to ignore that bad review on Yelp, Facebook comment, or Tweet,  it’s vital that we recognize this as an opportunity to change the minds of our dissatisfied customers – transforming those who care enough to speak out (our “haters”) into some of our brand’s biggest advocates.

So how do we turn these critics into a powerful business opportunity? We’ve outlined five reasons to love our haters and use their actions to drive further customer advocacy for our business:

1. Early Warning Detection: Who better to let you know when there is a problem with your business? These customer complaints to your social media channels may actually help your business identify a gap in your current product or service and be able to react in time before you start to develop more complaints.

2. Valuable Customer Insights: Pay attention. These customers are doing you a favor letting you know what might be wrong with your customer service. If you notice a decrease in traffic to your store or a drop in sales for your business, turn to your online communities to see what customers are saying about you.

3. Passionate Consumers: Online Haters are NOT our Worst Fear. That’s right – this title actually belongs to those who are not openly complaining, yet choose not to use your products or services anymore – those are the customers we should fear the most. They don’t care enough to tell you what’s wrong with your business. If responded to timely and accurately, these haters can become your greatest advocates and provide you with the insights you need the ones who are not speaking up are really thinking.  

4. Optimization of Traditional Channels: Did you know that according to Edison Research, 62% of first complaints are made via the phone or email? When these outlets don’t work, many customers take a second step towards social media. If you are getting a lot of online complaints, check to make sure you are taking care of your traditional communication channels and response time first. This may save you more time, money, and your online reputation. 

5. Complaints into Compliments: You can turn a hater into a brand advocate simply by your responding well and in a timely matter. Thanking them for their feedback and providing them the opportunity to revisit your business (perhaps providing a discount or free coupon for their next visit) can quickly turn any hater into a customer experience representative. Ask them a follow-up as to how their next visit was and what your business can do differently. 

 So now that we’ve taken a look at why it is important we pay close attention to our haters, let’s look at a few steps we can take to ensure we engage with them effectively and in a way that makes a difference:

Step 1: Find them. We recommend starting with Google alerts and monitoring Facebook, Twitter and online communities such as Yelp where your customers frequently engage. Did you know that 71% of all online complaints towards brands happen on Facebook?

Step 2: Respond – Every time. That’s right. Even when we want to look the other way, we have to respond every time to our haters every time to decrease the likelihood of a poor reputation or worse, more backlash.

Step 3: Act Quick: Be sure to monitor these recommended sites daily. The average complainer will look for a response within the first hour. Try not to let more than 24 hours pass by before responding or you may have more people try to jump into the conversation.

Step 4: Be Human: Try to be as humanizing as possible in your response. Our customers want to hear from what sounds like a real person, verses a canned brand response. A great example is calling them out by name, “Hi ____, we apologize…”.  Even if you feel like your business did nothing wrong, start with an apology – the customer is always right. At the very least, they will appreciate the acknowledgement.

Step 5: Take it Back Offline: After responding to the complaint, encourage the customer to send an email or have a customer service rep give them a direct call to take things back offline. The last thing you want is to continue the thread of back-and-forth for the world to see. This will also showcase the issue was resolved quick to the rest of the online community.

The number one goal of responding to online complaints is to turn these customers into advocates. If responded to properly, these folks can become our biggest fans and our loudest voices. Being creative, open and honest in our response can make a big difference . Take it one response at a time. 

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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