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For companies today, the threat posed by customer anger has never been higher. Social, mobile and cloud technologies have given customers—especially those who have grievances—a louder voice than ever before. With social media as their platform, angry customers can organize a widespread revolt, damaging a company’s reputation, and hurting sales and revenue.

The high cost of having unhappy customers means companies need a game plan on how to effectively respond to complaints. Companies need to figure out how to turn customer anger into something that benefits the business.

That’s the topic of our recent webinar, Hug Your Haters: How to Minimize the Impact of Angry Customers. The webinar featured Jay Baer, New York Times best-selling author and founder of marketing agency Convince and Convert, and Tyler Douglas, chief marketing officer of Vision Critical. Here are four top takeaways from the webinar.

  1. Acknowledge the importance of customer complaints.

Baer offered a compelling case on why haters are critical to companies today. He said that, unlike indifferent customers, haters have at least taken the time to raise their hands and to give their feedback.

“Haters are the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “It’s an early detection system for your business. They will tell you where your business needs to improve if you take the time to listen.”

"Haters are the canary in the coal mine." - Jay Baer

  1. Respond to all customer complaints.

“You need to answer every complaint, in every channel, every time,” said Baer. Citing a study he conducted with Edison Research, Baer revealed compelling stats that demonstrate the business value of responding to complaints. For instance, answering complaints on a review site increases brand advocacy by 16 percent, while doing so on social increases advocacy by 20 percent.

Baer added: “You can choose to look at haters as an absolutely beneficial part of your business. You can embrace complaints and keep your customers.”

  1. Use customer anger as a catalyst for positive change.

Both Baer and Douglas emphasized the importance of learning from angry customers. Dealing with anger is a constant challenge for brands, but it’s also an opportunity to listen to customers and drive change. Companies that seize this opportunity are well positioned to improve their relationships with customers and to gain valuable feedback that drives innovation and success.

“You need to bring your customers—both your lovers and your haters—at the center of your business,” said Douglas. “Sometimes, your most irate customers are the ones who love you most. You need to understand what makes them angry in order to better position your business to respond to crises, anticipate problems and, more importantly, create solutions.

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of your customers.

Being proactive can help companies avoid customer complaints in the first place. To avoid the wrath of the angry customer, companies need a deep understanding of their customers. But companies can’t rely solely on traditional sources like CRM data, ad hoc surveys, big data and social media monitoring to better understand their customers. According to Douglas, these approaches miss the “why” of customer behavior. “Because the world has changed so much, the way forward is to build ongoing, continuous conversations that evolve and improve over time,” said Douglas. “The heart of this is treating people like they matter to your company.”


As Baer said during the webinar, companies should respond to every complaint in every channel every time. But more importantly, they need to solicit feedback before it morphs into complaints. Ultimately, the best way to address complaints is to recognize that customers are people who have valuable feedback to contribute.

If you missed our webinar with Jay Baer, listen to an on-demand recording here.

How to keep your customers from cheating on you

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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