How To Hug Your Haters

Credit unions can use consumer complaints to differentiate themselves from their competition.


We all know haters. People who are annoyed, disappointed, or downright angry; they trash your business, your services, and sometimes even your employees. Today, haters seem to be far more plentiful and way louder than ever before — thanks to social media and online review sites.

But this is all good news. That’s because haters present insights and inspiration to improve your brand, and listening to their feedback offers an opportunity to grow and thrive. After all, customer service is the new marketing, says Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters.

What Is Hug Your Haters?

According to Forrester Research, “80% of businesses believe they deliver ‘superior customer service,’ while just 8% of customers agree that service is superior."

Baer uses this stat in his book to underscore the fact that haters are not your problem — ignoring them is. He wants readers to completely understand why customer complaints are so important and how to use those complaints advantageously.



According to Baer, there are two types of haters: offstage haters and onstage haters. Offstage haters almost always complain in private, often by phone or email, and expect to get an answer or response back by phone or email.

Onstage haters, in contrast, almost always complain in public, usually on social media or review sites. These folks don’t necessarily expect a response or answer, they just want an audience.

Two things happen when you respond to onstage haters. One, you shock the hater, who didn’t expect to receive a response and is more likely to be a repeat or loyal customer. And two, you show other customers or potential customers that you care.

“Answering complaints increases customer advocacy,” says Baer. “Not answering complaints decreases customer advocacy.”

This holds true for both offstage and onstage haters. However, the greatest increase in advocacy happens when you hug those haters who don’t expect you to respond — the onstage haters. In this case, hugging your haters can be a competitive differentiator.

Hugging your haters can be a competitive differentiator.

Of course, hugging haters isn’t easy. According to Baer, it requires cultural alignment, resource allocation, speed, thick skin, and an unwavering belief that complaints are an opportunity.

Even with all that, it’s still easy to leave questions and complaints unanswered. So, what’s his solution?

“Answer every complaint, in every channel, every time.”

When an organization hugs its haters, Baer says it accomplishes four things:

  1. It turns a bad experience into a good one.
  2. It creates customer advocacy and loyalty.
  3. It gains intelligence and insight about the organization.
  4. It outshines the competition. So few companies take the time to hug their haters that those who do differentiate themselves from the pack.

Hug Your Haters shows readers exactly how to deal with both types of haters and offers research and case studies from businesses of all types and sizes. Baer even outlines specific playbooks and formulas to hug haters effectively.

As the introduction boasts, “This book was written for anyone and everyone who has customers anywhere on the planet.”

Why Should Credit Unions Hug Their Haters?

Call centers help credit unions do a good job of hugging offstage haters; however, the movement is missing out on the opportunity to hug onstage haters.

When members and prospective members think about credit unions, they commonly assume cooperatives are more member-focused. According to The Financial Brand, 61% of people agree that credit unions care more about their members than banks do.

But is member satisfaction really a priority when an institution doesn’t allocate money and resources to address onstage complaints and concerns?

Hugging onstage haters is critical — especially for attracting younger demographics like the millennials. What will happen to legacy offstage feedback channels — think email and the telephone — when this generation makes up most of the credit union’s membership? It’s not too farfetched to suggest credit unions are already missing opportunities to attract millennials because of this.

“In the millennial generation, there just won’t be much desire to pick up the phone and call an 800 number,” Baer says.

Email and phone channels are likely to suffer a usage decline. Is your credit union prepared for this type of shift in customer service?

People don’t complain just to complain, they have a legitimate concern. Credit unions need to recognize that as an opportunity, not a problem.

The problem isn’t the haters, it’s ignoring them.

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May 14, 2018


  • How do we get around privacy issues though? That's been our biggest fear an hurdle with responding in an online environment.
  • Hi Gregory - thanks so much for the comment, this is a tricky situation! A great way to handle this type of online comment or review is to thank the reviewer for the comment, and then either send them the contact information (email address or phone number) of someone who can address the situation offline, or ask them to send you a direct message on the social platform. It is also okay to mention in your response that you can't discuss personal information online, but you’d love to help them offline. Hope this helps, happy to discuss further!
  • Great information, and an interesting read! Thank you.
    Ken Moser
  • Hi Ken, thanks so much for reading my blog post!