51xxPbzlneL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Jay Baer is a very smart friend, very savvy social media expert and now the author of a ground breaking book, “Hug Your Haters.” Check the book out here.

Companies that address onstage complaints – those that are made in social media or a public forum – or even acknowledge positive or neutral feedback, have a chance to dramatically boost customer advocacy. That alone is a good reason to hug those haters on social media, review sites, and discussion boards.

It doesn‘t end with the one hater, though. Onstage, customer service is a spectator sport – and every onlooker is a potential customer.

As author and consultant Dave Kerpen said, “If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn‘t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching.”

Everything online is amplified

Imagine that every time you called a business, a few dozen other customers were allowed to listen in on the call. Would customer service be different?

The concept seems far-fetched, but that‘s precisely how public, online interactions in social media and other onstage venues are. Everything online is amplified. Your interaction with customers is amplified. If you choose to not interact, that silence is amplified too.

The value of responding to one person: magnification

“What‘s the value in responding to one person? It‘s the magnification. What‘s the value of opening the door for one lady when you‘re walking into a building? Well, to that one lady it means a whole lot. But it‘s also the other six people that might have seen you who now may have a different perception of who you are as a human being. You cannot overvalue a good action, especially online where everyone is watching,” says digital marketer and author Gary Vaynerchuk.

Onstage feedback will become dominant

Public venues, where everyone is watching how businesses react, may become the most popular way for customers to interact with companies. Onstage feedback may surpass offstage feedback when today‘s younger consumers become the dominant group of purchasers and possibly before then.

My children are 14 and 17 years old, and of course both have smartphones. But that‘s really a misnomer, because getting them to use the “phone” portion of that device is like enticing a ballerina to wear golf spikes. They abhor talking on the phone, and actively avoid it. They text . . . a lot. And they use apps constantly.

They check email only when looking for online purchase confirmations. Imagine what will happen to legacy, offstage feedback mechanisms when their generation makes up the majority of your customers.

The shift is already happening

Even today, customer service practitioners and observers are seeing a rising tide of onstage questions, comments, and complaints.

Dan Gingiss from Discover is in the midst of this transition already. “In the Millennial generation there just isn‘t much desire to pick up the phone and call an 800 number. They feel it‘s easier to tweet. We are definitely seeing a shift.”

Email may suffer the same decline, according to Scott Wise from Scotty‘s Brewhouse: “I don‘t think email is going to be the end all, be all. Because people want instant answers. It‘s not just the Millennials, and it‘s not just this younger generation, it‘s all of us. We are just becoming very ADHD from everything that we are surrounded with and all the stimulus that‘s being thrown at us at all time. Everything is at our fingertips and we feel like the minute we shoot off an email, if I don‘t have an answer in five minutes, then someone is ignoring me.”

This shift from offstage to onstage is already in full swing for businesses with customers that tend to skew somewhat younger, like Microsoft XBox. XBox Community Support Manager James Degnan reports that in the past five years, the number of interactions handled by his Twitter customer support team has increased ten-fold.

The value of excellent customer service

Today‘s onstage complainers don‘t necessarily expect a response from you. But give them one dose of excellent customer service online and they‘re hooked. It‘s like the first time you listen to a super catchy song like “Happy” or “Uptown Funk.” You instantly want to hear it again.

So one of the great paradoxes of today‘s customer service landscape is that the better you are at interacting with customers online, the more you are training your customers to expect that same treatment again and again.

As Dan Gingiss puts it, “There are so many brands that are not responding in social media that when you experience a brand that is, you realize that it‘s a fast, convenient way to get your question answered. If you tweet at us once and are impressed by the response, the next time you need service from us, you‘re going to be thinking about that channel first.”

This phenomenon of good online interactions producing more desire for online interactions occurs worldwide. And this raises some interesting questions about why companies are providing better and faster service online than they are offline.

If your goal is to shift customer contact to online venues, perhaps this carrot and stick approach is warranted. But if your objective is not to essentially reward your customers for complaining onstage, perhaps a better plan would be to provide the same quality of service across all venues.

This is how Gingiss has organized Discover‘s customer service department. The goals for response time and customer satisfaction are shared by all channels, and do not vary based on whether they are online or offline.

You may be worried about this inexorable rise in onstage feedback and complaints. It is a lot to handle. But from an economics perspective, this shift can be a major win for businesses of all types and sizes.

Customer service costs $5 less per interaction in social media

Handling a customer interaction in social media costs less than one dollar on average, compared to $2.50 to $5 for an email interaction, and more than $6 to provide telephone customer service.

Every time a customer wants to interact with your business and selects an onstage channel instead of an offstage channel, the stakes are raised because the interaction is public. That‘s the challenge. But if you save $5 every time a customer chooses to interact publicly, isn‘t it worth it to handle your business out in the open?

Today, however, the potential economic benefit provided by onstage interaction isn‘t being realized by most businesses because many of the onstage complaints are simply offshoots of an original offstage complaint. Yet, as Discover, Xbox and other brands are experiencing, the number of customers choosing onstage channels first continues to increase steadily, especially when those consumers have had good experiences on those channels previously.

But for now, many Onstage Haters are born from poor offstage customer service.

Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: “This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.





About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change.

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