Interview with Jay Baer by Adam Fraser
This is a transcript of this podcast interview with Jay Baer on Hug Your Haters
Adam: I’m delighted to welcome Jay Baer back to the EchoJunction podcast. Jay is a renowned business strategist, digital media entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and the New York Times best-selling author of four books, including ‘The Now Revolution’ and ‘Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype’. Jay is the founder of Convince and Convert, a strategy consulting firm that helps prominent companies gain and keep more customers through the smart intersection of technology, social media, and customer service. Convince and Convert produces the world’s number one content marketing blog and multiple podcasts including his own award-winning show, Social Pros. And Jay is the most retweeted digital marketer in the world. Jay, a very big welcome back to the podcast.
Jay: Thanks very much, Adam. Fantastic to be back with you again.
Adam: And look, I just sort of kind of mixed up the bio a little bit. Do we still believe that is the case: you are the most retweeted digital marketer in the world?
Jay: That’s not quite it. I am the most retweeted person in the world among digital marketers. So among the group of people who are digital marketers, I’m the most retweeted amongst that group. Or at least, I was the last time that research was conducted.
Adam: Great stuff. Look, Jay, thank you so, so much for coming back on. We’re going to talk about your new book which is out in early 2016, ‘Hug Your Haters’. But look, I’m sure many of the listeners listened to you in episode three. For those that are sort of jumping in reverse order and hearing you for the first time, maybe just give a brief bio? And in particular, we’re going to talk books. Talk about the books you’ve written in your career today.
Jay: Sure you bet. So I have been in online marketing since 1993, so very, very early in the business. My current firm is Convince and Convert. We do large company social media strategy, content marketing strategy, digital strategy, customer experience strategy for some of the largest brands in the world. We work with United Nations and Oracle and Cisco and Allstate and lots of other folks. And I do lots of podcasts of my own, including Social Pros, which is a show for large company social media professionals, wrote my first book with Amber Naslund called ‘The Now Revolution’, which is all about social business, and to some degree, social media. And then wrote ‘Youtility For Accountants’, ‘Youtility For Real Estate’, and the New York Times best seller ‘Youtility’. And ‘Hug Your Haters’, as you mentioned, is my new book which will be out pretty soon. It’s all about customer service and customer experience.
Adam: Yeah, lot’s I want to dive into about the book. Customer service, customer experience; so topical, so important. You know, it’s in the conversation across social and digital right now. But before we go in the detail, we had Joe Pulizzi on just, I think, six or seven weeks ago. And he’s sort of announced to the world that every two years he’s going to write a book. And that’s just his thing; it’s a sort of personal objective. And I’m just interested, you know, people, I hear all…you know…the labour of love that is writing a book and burying yourself in the basement and the promotion of the book. Yeah, it’s a big thing to bite off. So what’s your kind of approach to book writing? Do you have a sort of time-bound objective? Or do you just wait till something really grabs you and you think, ‘Yep, this is a story that needs to be told.’?
Jay: It’s sort of in the middle of those two approaches. I mean, as a speaker…and while my company is involved in a great many things–we have, as of January, we’ll have seven weekly podcasts that we produce. Plus a blog, plus a daily e-mail, plus a lot of other things and consulting, we’re involved in a lot of stuff for a small company. But my personal time is spent, at least, half the time, on the road giving speeches. I’ll do fifty or sixty speeches this year, all around the world. And if you’re going to go be a speaker, and a professional speaker in the world of business, you have to have new things to talk about eventually, right? You can’t give the same speech forever. You can give the same speech for several years, but you can’t give the same speech forever. And so from that perspective, I have to write new books on occasion, just because you’ve got to be able to change what you’re talking about. Now I suppose I could just have a new speech that doesn’t have a book associated with it, but that’s just not typically how it goes.
But for me, as much as I would love to say I’m going to do one every two years, it’s not quite that simple because I write about a broader selection of topics than Joe does. And he and I are very, very good friends. But Joe writes about content marketing. Joe talks about content marketing. Joe’s company is about content marketing. When Joe goes to sleep, he thinks about content marketing. And that is part of what I think about. I think you could probably argue that Youtility is about content marketing at some level. But I’ve also written a book about social business, I’ve written books about specific verticals. And now Hug Your Haters is about customer experience. And so I am trying, intentionally, strategically, to cover a broader swath of ground than some of my contemporaries. And to do that, you kind of have to wait until you’ve got a different approach, right? And so especially when you talk about something like customer experience and customer service. I think there’s a lot of books about that already. So it took a while after I wrote Youtility to say all right, what is my recommendation here? What is my spin here that hasn’t been spun before?
And so sometimes that doesn’t come every two years. I have an inkling of what my next book will be about, and I think it will be about H.R. and talented people and sort of the more personal entrepreneurship side. I don’t know what my angle is yet. So that’s how I start. I’ve got a very, very small one sentence idea of what I might write about, and then I sort of open myself up to that and then figure out what my take is eventually, and then write a book about that. So it might be three years, it might be four years, it might be two years. We’ll see.
Adam: Got it. Now look great context, very interesting perspective, Jay. So look, I’m guessing it must have been, call it circa twelve months ago when the thinking or the early thinking began for Hug Your Haters. Talk us through and talk the listeners through what was the creative itch that led you down this specific path? I mean, was it seeing the United Airlines and the BA’s and the Domino’s Pizzas and these very public fails? Or was it some other perspective?
Jay: No, not at all. Because I don’t…I talked about social media crisis quite a bit in Now Revolution, and I don’t feel like there’s a lesson in that. And I don’t want to write a book about crisis. I don’t think it’s worthy of a whole book necessarily. I don’t think it’s that interesting. Because it’s unplanned, right? You know, anybody can be hijacked at any time, and sure there’s some things you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen. But, you know, in many cases, it’s kind of random. It’s not really a book I wanted to write. And so, I’ll tell you an interesting story that’s never been told before. No one knows this. Actually, like three people in the world know this. So when I started to write this book, my thesis was totally different. So the work that we do with companies, which very much is centred on the convergence of marketing and customer service, how customer service is the new marketing. So my thesis was that because of the rise of social media as a content mechanism, that companies had to get faster, that that really lack of speed was the biggest problem with companies today.
And so I decided to test that. I didn’t want to just say that. And so I hired Edison Research, which is a very well-respected research organization, and wrote them an enormous check. And we did a very, very, very comprehensive study of more than two thousand people to look at who complains and why they complain and where they complain and how. And my original thesis was that, all right, let’s isolate how fast companies need to be and the fact that they’re not fast enough. Well when we got the research back, what we discovered was that speed is important to customers but not really that important. What’s really important is that they get an answer at all. And so it completely changed my thinking about customer service and customer experience and wrote a totally different book than what I had intended to write. The original title of the book was going to be something like 43 minutes or whatever the sort of the magic inflection point was that companies have to respond. And so we ended up with a totally different book which is called Hug Your Haters because the advice is to answer every customer, every time.
Adam: Well that’s a great story, and thank you for the world exclusive on the EchoJunction podcast. Hopefully, more than three people will now know that story. But look, one of the things I genuinely love about the book is, you know, people listening might be thinking, ‘Oh Jay, yet another book about customer service.’ You know, doing the air quotes there. But there is a lot of science and research that went into the book. And I like the fact that, yeah, you’ve let the hard data talk rather than hypothesize. So there’s interviews, there’s case studies, and yet there’s the research with Edison, which sort of underpins a lot of the conclusions. So yeah. Look, it’s a great sort of direction to go out. And look, Jay, I want to get into some of the meat of the book. And really, you smash us between the eyes right in the introduction with a really incredible stat. 80% of businesses believe they deliver superior customer service, but only eight percent of customers agree that service is superior. I mean, why the expectation gap?
Jay: Yeah, it’s so funny. 80% say that they’re great and eight percent agree. When I say that on stage, I just want to drop the microphone and walk off and just be like, well, that’s it. You know, I think it’s because companies look at customer service and customer experience in aggregate, and they measure it in aggregate, and they resource it in aggregate. You know, how many dollars do we put against customers? How many calls did we handle this month? How many emails did we get this quarter, right? They, by definition, think about it in big, kind of numerical terms; they get lumped together. But the reality is that every one of those six thousand phone calls you took this month are an individual person with an individual problem. And so it’s really hard for companies to kind of see that individuality. That’s why there’s such a mixture of case studies in the book, big companies, and small companies. And you can see when you read through the book, that the small companies have a much better sense of the pain of the customer because they’re closer to that customer. And so I think when you get those kind of stats, 80% and 8%, a lot of that is bigger companies who are just like, well yeah, we’re putting all this money into it. Of course, we’re doing a great job. You know, they think about their excellence based on budget, not based on outcomes.
Adam: Yeah, inputs not outputs. Pretty flawed approach. Jay, Hug Your Haters is the title of the book. Obviously, there are a number of aspects to customer service. There’s the more routine answering queries, dealing with problems, fixing warranty claims, etc., etc. There’s…obviously talking to happy customers. Talk us through why is it so important that people hug your haters? Why are the people that are actually criticizing you such an important group to respond to?
Jay: Well, it’s because those are the people who actually take their time to tell you what’s wrong with your business. See, one of the interesting stats in the book is that 95% of unhappy customers never take the time to complain in a form that a business can discover. They might tell their friends they didn’t like it, but they won’t tell you. And so that five percent who actually raise their hands and say hey, I’m unhappy, hey, this wasn’t great, hey you should fix this, that’s a treasure, right? They are essentially the unelected representatives of probably a larger group of customers who are dissatisfied but don’t ever tell you about it. So the haters, the complainers are really the canary in the coal mine. They’re the early warning detection system for your business, and if you want to be a better company, those are the people you should be listening to.
Adam: I mean, Jay, there’s a number of reasons you flesh out in the book why the business benefits off hugging your haters and responding. I mean, is it all about, you know, is the aim to turn that individual from a hater into an advocate? Or is it more particularly in a public forum that you are showing all customers that you care enough to reply?
Jay: Well, it’s certainly both. It depends on the vehicle of complaint. So if you’re complaining in private, so telephone or email for example, certainly as an organization you want to try and make that customer happy or solve their problem. Partially because people who complain on the phone and email expect a response at some 90% level. And so you have to do that; it’s just the way business works and what customers expect. But you’re exactly right Adam that if you complain in public, social media, review sites, discussion boards, and forums, those kind of things, customer service very much becomes a spectator sport. And so yes, of course, you want to make the original customer happy, but perhaps more important is the fact that all these people are looking on or could be looking on. And they’re taking a measure of your organization and saying hey, do these guys listen? Do they care? Do they respond? How do they handle this, and what does that mean in terms of my kinship or advocacy on behalf of this organization? So mathematically, from a business standpoint, the onlookers are probably more important than the actual customer.
Adam: And look, Jay, there’s obviously the specific short-term issue you’re dealing with, with a hater, but I’m assuming the better companies have this sort of feedback loop where they’re going hang on, you know, people keep complaining about blank, the coffee in the lounge. Let’s get to the root cause and actually use this feedback to impact our core product, our core processes…
Jay: Isn’t it crazy? It’s so crazy. I mean, and I talk about this in the book a little bit from my friend Steve Curtain, who wrote a good book about customer service himself. And look, Amazon, for example, has a principle in the corporation which says we should never answer the same question twice, because if somebody asks a question, their unrelenting focus is how can we make sure that this question never has to be asked again because we answer it somehow on the web or in some other form or fashion where the answer becomes obvious? Right? So their goal is literally no question is asked twice. And that’s an extreme example of course, as many things are at Amazon. But the philosophy is really interesting, right? Which is use customer feedback, especially negative customer feedback, because paying attention to people saying how great you are is thrilling psychologically. But it doesn’t help you, doesn’t make you a better company. Paying attention to the people who say bad things about you and then using that information to fix those things really is the quickest path to great customer experiences.
Adam: And do you see the evidence of the better companies doing that? Or is it one of the, I guess, one of the premises?
Jay: And it’s not just big companies. It’s big and small. It really is a corporate culture issue. It’s how does customer feedback get propagated through the organization. One of the most dangerous things in organizations, big or small, is that somebody or a department is in charge of customer service and their interactions and the data gathered there stays inside that apartment, that it never gets to marketing, or operations, or R&D, or executives, or finance, or H.R., or anybody else, where any customer feedback should go as broad as possible in the organization because it can benefit everybody.
Adam: Look, absolutely. So look, diving into again some of the, yeah, the real science and analysis in the book, there’s not just haters. You sort of segment the market between off stage and on stage haters. Just talk the listeners through a high level, the difference in characteristic between those two types of hater, and also, I guess the different types of response they necessitate.
Jay: So we found in the research that there’s actually two main types of haters. There are offstage haters, and those are people who typically complain first in private, so that’s email and phone. The off stage haters are a little bit older, they’re a little bit less technology and social media savvy, and they complain a little bit less often over the course of a year. The other type of haters are on stage haters. And we call them that because they complain in public. So they complain in social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc., they complain on review sites, Trip Advisor and the hundreds or thousands of other review sites there are out there for each industry, and on discussion boards and forums. And those on stage haters are a little younger, they’re more tech and social media savvy at some level, and they tend to complain more often over the course of a year because it’s easier to do so. But the biggest difference between those two groups isn’t actually technology or demographics or age or anything else. The biggest difference, Adam, is what they expect, what they expect of business.
So when people complain offstage, phone and email, as I mentioned earlier they expect a response. 90% of the time, they expect a response. If you call a business, if you email a business, you expect them to get back to you. It’s just how it works. But if you complain in social media, if you give somebody a negative review, if you leave an unhappy comment on a discussion board, you don’t necessarily anticipate that the business will get back to you. In fact, the research shows that less than half, fewer than half of all onstage haters expect a response. But when you give them a response, when you actually answer somebody’s Facebook post with a reply, it has a giant impact on their customer advocacy. Why? Because they didn’t expect it. It’s all about expectation management.
Adam: So you’re exceeding expectations just by the acknowledgment? And the response in itself…
Jay: Right. Yeah, it doesn’t even matter what you say at some level. They’re like, oh my God, I can’t believe you’re listening.
Adam: Yeah. That’s surprising. Jay, were you surprised? Again, that’s the data talking. I’m really surprised in 2015 that less than half expect a response. Did that surprise you?
Jay: Well, you think about social media. I mean there’s a number of different studies about this, which is why I didn’t cite them in this particular topic in the book, but there’s many, many out there that say if 70% of tweets, for example, to companies are never responded to, you know? And there’s there’s multiple studies that peg that between 60 and 80%. So why would you expect it, right? If so often, you don’t get a response, why would you expect a response? Same thing on a site like Yelp or Trip Advisor. You know, if you go through a Trip Advisor travel search, you’ll see in some cases somebody from a hotel will answer back or an attraction or something, a restaurant. But in many, many, many cases, they don’t. In a discussion board, right, if you’re on some sort of discussion board for, you know, NRL fans and you’ve got some sort of Rabbitohs problem, and you comment on your on your rugby team, do you expect the rugby team to answer you back? Probably not. And so I think that will change, especially in social media as more and more companies start to think about social media as a primary customer contact vehicle and not just like a well maybe we’ll answer some things on occasion. Over time, I think that will change, but for now, it’s a huge opportunity for business to hug those onstage haters.
Adam: Absolutely. And the last point is exactly where I was going. Surprising or not, it is what it is, and it just shows even now getting into a relatively mature stage of social, absolute upside for enterprise to take this seriously and invest in the correct business processes and tools. And just exceed customer expectations in terms of just, as you say, respond to every single complaint. It’s sort of a key premise that flows through the book.
Jay: And it almost never happens. I mean, we were fortunate to find some case studies of great business people who actually do follow the hug your haters formula, which is to answer every complaint in every channel every time, instead of what most organizations do which is to answer some complaints every once in a while in channels that you like personally. So that’s what usually happens, right? Or never.
Adam: Or even worse, there’s the old Gary Vaynerchuk birdie bragging: I won’t respond to the complainers but I will retweet every single person that says something nice about the brand.
Jay: That’s right, that’s exactly. So there are a few businesses out there that are actually implementing the hug your haters formula today, some big and some small. And so we were really, I was delighted to be able to talk to some of those people and tell their story to prove that it’s doable. Because the first question that people ask about this is well that’s great Jay. Maybe you’re right, maybe it does make business sense for us to answer everybody but we don’t have that kind of money. To which I say well why don’t you just put money into it and stop spending money on something else? One of my favourite stats in the book, Adam, is that globally we spend a five hundred billion dollars a year on marketing and nine billion dollars a year on customer service. And that makes no sense at all because we all know it’s like literally business at the most basic level. Every business person knows this, but it makes more sense to keep the customers you’ve already earned than have to keep getting new customers over and over and over and over again. We all know that to be true. Yet we don’t run our businesses that way, and we don’t invest our resources that way, and it’s simply insanity.
Adam: It is insanity Jay. And look, I won’t side-track too much, but we had Joseph Jaffe on the podcast a few months ago who obviously authored ‘Flip The Funnel’. And it’s all over that entire premise. And that really was my take out question that, you know, Joseph, it just it’s so eminently logical and there’s so much financial data that shows retaining makes so much sense. You know, why are we not doing it? And the only conclusion we could get to is, maybe we didn’t use the word insanity but just lack of common sense amongst human beings and weaned on this drug that is the funnel of new customers. It doesn’t make any sense.
Jay: Yeah. And then I love Joseph. He’s one of my favourite people, and of all the books he’s written, I think Flip The Funnel is the best one. I’m a big, big fan of that book. I’m looking at right now, actually; it’s on my shelf.
Adam: Good stuff. Look, Jay, let’s unpack a little bit about some sort of tactics and practical guidance in the social and review site channels. So look, phone and e-mail, very important; there’s some great stuff for people that want to dive into those more traditional channels as well in the book. But the audience here obviously probably more focused on the social and digital space. So look, Jay, talk us through the sort of public nature, and let’s focus on social, and maybe Twitter and Facebook in particular. If we ignore any industry where there may be regulatory issues and privacy, e.g. banking and insurance and data related, just more generally what’s your thinking on when to take a conversation private, if ever? Is it better to resolve the entire thing in the full glory, you have to get the full gory detail in the public eye? Or should you try and take someone to Twitter message or Facebook messenger early?
Jay: Well, it does depend on the industry at some level, because certainly there are financial services, health care etc., where it is very difficult to get to the root of the issue in public because you’ve got information that just simply should not be shared publicly. But even in those circumstances, I feel like you can make the first approach publicly. And you should because it again shows everybody else who’s looking on what kind of company you are. But I’ll tell you, Adam, what I see in practice is a lot of companies that aren’t in financial services or health or something like that saying oh we’re sorry…here’s a good example. So, somebody, somebody calls a company and they’ve got a problem. And they realize that it’s going to take 25 minutes waiting on hold. They don’t have 25 minutes. So they in frustration hang up the phone and they go to Twitter. And they find that company’s Twitter account and they complain there because they assume it will be quicker. And they get an answer that says we’re sorry, please call us at the number that they just called.
And that kind of circular logic happens all the time and drives an enormous amount of frustration among customers. Part of it is lack of coordination between online and offline customer service teams. And part of it is just this willingness or I should say it another way, it’s a reluctance of companies to actually engage in social media customer service. All they’re doing is shunting people back to the regular channels. That’s not customer service in social media. All that is a funnel. So if you’re going to be on Twitter and Facebook and places like that, actually do customer service. Be able to solve somebody’s problem. They don’t need you to give them the phone number; they can figure that out without you.
Adam: So you’re almost saying, if possible, keep it public unless you have to go private?
Jay: Yeah, well…and not only public but also in the same channel, right? So if somebody reaches out to you on Twitter, that’s not an accident, right? I mean, they chose that channel. As a general rule, companies have to understand that they have to interact with their customers in the ground of the customers’ choosing, not the company’s preference. That’s a fundamental issue of this book that you cannot continue to force your customers to interact with you how you want to be interacted with, in a way that is convenient for you or less expensive for you. If somebody reaches out to you on Twitter it’s because A, they prefer Twitter or B, they were really unhappy with how you handled them on the phone or email, and now they’re taking it public because they’re super upset. So for you to answer that tweet back with e-mail us at or call us at, which is where they probably just came from, is a slap on the face, and it creates a lot of frustration.
Adam: Absolutely. Look, Jay, talk a little bit speed of response. You know, you said up front. Maybe it wasn’t the central…originally it was probably going to the central premise of the book and maybe it’s not the key factor but it’s clearly a factor. What’s the data show about best practice or expectations of how quickly consumers of today expect a response on a social platform?
Jay: Let me add a caveat to what I’m going to say, based on the research that we discussed a moment ago. So half of the people who complain in social media don’t expect a response at all because they haven’t been conditioned to think that companies will respond. But among those customers who do expect a response, 40% of them expect that response within an hour and they expect that same kind of response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So if you think a company is going to get back to you, you would think they’re going to get back to you within an hour. Right now, as we’re talking, the average amount of time it takes a business to get back to somebody on social, if they do at all, is five hours. So people are thinking hey, about an hour is reasonable, companies think five hours is reasonable. You’ve got a problem there. But speed, in social media speed, isn’t the biggest culprit. Silence is the biggest culprit, right? The biggest challenge is that most companies simply don’t respond. Those who choose to respond typically respond relatively quickly, because if you are going to get into social media customer care at all, you know that you’re going to have to do it pretty fast. Or why bother? So it’s essentially a challenge of silence more so than nimbleness today.
Adam: And I love the line in the book Jay where you say silence is actually a response; the response is I don’t care.
Jay: No question. And that’s from Dave Kerpen who wrote likable social media in an interview I did with him. And he’s exactly right. And you know, it’s…I had a line in the Now Revolution all the way back then which said you wouldn’t have a system where somebody called you and answer the phone and you said hello, and somebody said I’d like to report a problem, and you just immediately hung up the phone because you know, ‘we only take positive phone calls here. We don’t take negative phone calls’, you know. So you couldn’t, that would be unthinkable. But yet that’s how a lot of people operate in digital right now. That’s literally like that’s our strategy. I’m like really? Okay.
Adam: Yeah. Look, Jay, a couple more questions on the sort of tactical playbook, and then I do want to sort of go into some broader strategic issues. So look, yeah, the word haters, people I’m sure listening are going Jay, what about the trolls, the true…yeah. When people go from constructive criticism to sort of irrational hatred, you know, what your thought, and I know there’s no easy answer here, where’s the line in the sand where a brand should go ‘Look, actually my staff shouldn’t have to respond to that. You know, we’re just going to ignore it.’? Or should you even respond to the more sort of lunatic fringe of your customer base?
Jay: Yeah I acknowledge that in the book, that there is this third group, the crazies, the trolls. The good news is that by number, they’re actually quite small. Clearly by emphasis, it’s pretty big because everybody asks me about that and everybody worries about that. There’s not that many trolls out there, thankfully. But I do believe that you should answer everybody, even trolls. You should not get into a conversation with people like that because it is totally counterproductive. But you should, at least, be on the record as answering everybody. There’s some great interviews in the book with different companies who handle that problem different ways. Microsoft XBox, for example, great company in terms of how they handle customer service and social media. They answer everybody regardless of how troll-like they are. Other companies, they do my advice which is to answer people at least once, and then if they seem to be a troll then you cut them off. Other companies in the book say that they won’t answer anybody if their initial comment is, you know, it contains profanity or is particularly vicious, etc. They just ignore those people. I think that’s a bad way to go because it’s a slippery slope. You know, what’s profanity, what’s too aggressive, what…you know, it’s a very difficult line to draw. And so I feel like it’s easier to say we just answer everybody once. And if you’re a jerk, we only answer you once and then we block you.
Adam: Yeah. And just a sort of related final question. And look, for the listeners there’s an entire chapter which gives you the playbook for hugging your own stage haters. But one that really hit a spot Jay and caught my eyes is Jay Baer’s rule of reply twice. You wanna just flesh that out for people? I really love this one. Just explain what you meant from this.
Jay: Yeah, people like that one a lot. It’s Jay Baer’s rule of reply. Only twice, which is the important point. And so the way it works is that you should never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever reply more than twice in public to anybody, because it’s counterproductive. If somebody likes you and this is a happy interaction and they say we love you and you’re like thanks so much. No, we really love you. No really, thanks so much. Beyond that, you’re just wasting time, right? You’re wasting bullets in the gun at that point. There’s just no…you don’t have to do any more than that you’ve done. If somebody hates you, like we hate you. We’re really sorry. No, we really hate you. Well then let’s get with you in a private message so we can get more details. Or at that point, there’s no need for you to answer a third time because you have addressed it and you have given them a remediation option. Beyond that, all you’re going to do is get sucked into a vortex of negativity, which has no upside for you. And this is true for people, and it’s true for companies, and it’s true for small business. It’s true for everybody. Never reply more than twice, positive or negative. I used this yesterday. Somebody kind of semi-attacked me about something on Google plus. And I responded once and then they came back at me. And I said, and I actually quoted it. I said, okay, here is my reply. I want to let you know that there’s a rule in my new book called the rule of reply only twice. So I wanted to let you know right now I will not be responding again. Here’s what I think and I’m out.
Adam: Got it now. Love that. And yeah I think that will hit a chord when the book comes out, Jay. So look, let’s shift gears a little bit and talk some case studies. So you do, again, in addition to the research you did with Edison, I think fifty plus interviews with real enterprises facing real challenges in digital social customer service. Maybe just flesh out a little bit, talk to a couple of examples that really stuck with you of people living and breathing the hug your haters philosophy and doing this well. And maybe a couple of examples, whether they’re in the book or otherwise, brands and enterprises maybe not doing it so well.
Jay: Yeah, I think the ones that are not doing it so well are pretty easy to find. It’s people who are just ignoring their customers. There’s so many, I don’t need to point any of them out. I think we all know those companies and we’ve probably all had experiences with them. In terms of positive examples, one of my favourite ones Le Pain Quotidien. And I talk about them in the book a little bit. They’re a chain of cafes, mostly breakfast and lunch. And they’re based in Brussels, in Belgium. They have two hundred twenty locations around the world. Some of the U.S. as well. I don’t think they have any in Australia but I wouldn’t swear to it. And their Customer Experience Manager is this woman by the name of Erin Pepper. And she’s super smart. So she, when she started at this organization, her goal–you’re going to love this, Adam–her goal was to double the amount of complaints
Adam: This is ala Seth Godin, ‘I want my team to fail.’?
Jay: Yeah, because she’s like if we get more complaints then we can actually fix those things, right? And she raises a great point which is if your goal is to minimize complaints, it’s really easy to do that. You know what’s the best way to minimize complaints? Stop listening, right? Anybody can minimize complaints. All you got to do is stop listening. I don’t know what happened, nobody complains anymore, right? I mean it’s literally, it’s a total self-fulfilling prophecy. So her goal was to double complaints. And so she’s done a great job with how they handle customers, particularly on review sites. But she has this amazing tactic that I want to share, which is when people do complain, she answers them back in public, as you should, and says we’re terribly sorry we disappointed you and great feedback and I’ll make sure the store manager knows and all that stuff, right? Does it well.
But then she lets it sit for a couple hours, and then she contacts that person in private because all of those sites have private messaging functions. So she messages them in private and says, “You know, I’ve been thinking. And you are a particularly perceptive customer. You see things that other customers just don’t see. You have a gift. We need more customers like you. So what I’d like to do, with your permission, I’d like to give you two gift cards a month. And with each of these gift cards, I’d like you to go to a different Le Pain Quotidien location, have breakfast or lunch on us. And when you do, could you please click this link and fill out this very, very detailed survey on your experiences, because your feedback, your insights, your aptitude for customer experience is the kind of insights that we need in this organization.” And it totally works. She now has more than a hundred, more than one hundred of these people doing this kind of in-depth secret shopper program for her. And the total cost of the program, gift cards. That’s it. So she successfully took hate and turned it into help, which I think is pretty spectacular.
Adam: Yeah, higher quality market research that grabbing a hundred random people from the street just wouldn’t give you that kind of in-depth insight.
Jay: And anybody can do that, right? That’s one of those ideas you’re like, well why don’t I do that? Why doesn’t everybody do that? Why don’t I do that for people who read the blog or listen to my podcast or anything else? It’s crazy.
Adam: Yeah. Now look, some great examples through the book, and you know, KLM have been on your podcast, are featured. 24/7 and 14 languages, and some fantastic case studies of people doing it well. Look just back to the conversation earlier about the insanity or illogical nature of companies not taking this space seriously. I guess you’ve got an entire chapter that fleshes out the reasons why brands and enterprises perhaps don’t do it well, you know, beyond that sort of high-level insanity, if you like. So just talk through some of the things. You know, people might be listening and again in the head going, oh yeah, I’d love to do it, but I’m seeing these obstacles. What are the things you see there?
Jay: I mean, some of it is just the number of channels now. It’s not like well let’s just put more people on the phones. That would’ve been the answer back in the day, right? Just get more people answering the phones, problem solved. Well, it’s not that anymore because now you’ve got phone, plus e-mail, plus Facebook, plus Twitter, plus Google Plus, plus Yelp or Trip Advisor or whatever the review sites are in your business, plus discussion boards and forums. Plus, as I talk about at the end of the book, all the new stuff coming like We Chat and Whatsapp and all these other places that customers want to interact with you. So the channel proliferation is really hard and I understand that. And that’s one of the reasons why companies don’t hug their haters. The other reason is just the volume, right? There is so many more complaints now because it’s so much easier to complain. In the U.K. complaints about business in social media increased 800% from January of last year to May of this year. 800%. Why? Because it’s so much easier to complain on Twitter or Facebook compared to calling or emailing. And that trend is going to continue. In fact, it will accelerate. So the volume is a problem for business.
Some of it is corporate culture, that they just…you know, people say that they care about customers but they don’t really care about customers enough to invest in it. I think that’s where you get that 80% of companies say they’re doing great and 8% of their customers agree. Some of it is legal, that sometimes you’ve got very aggressive legal departments who are like yeah, we don’t want to get involved with too many customers because there may be admitting culpability, things like that. So there’s a number of reasons to it. But ultimately what it comes down to is you either believe that this is an investment that pays off in our ally or you don’t. That’s it. I mean that’s it, right? You either think this makes financial sense or you don’t.
Adam: Oh, I agree but, you know, again, back to the whole customer experience, customer service. Are there still people that actually would look you in the eye and go, ‘No Jay, we’re just going to do some more T.V. campaigns and want new customers.’? And it’s hard to think again that people aren’t on board with the importance of this area.
Jay: Yeah, I think everybody’s on board with it conceptually. But they’re not on board with it operationally. And that’s the difference, right. I mean nobody, nobody walks into a board meeting and says you know what our problem is? We care about customers too much. Like that never happens. But yet when you actually see what they emphasize, that is really how it actually works in practice. So it’s a challenge and it’s something that every company is going to have to face right now, which is why I wrote the book and why the book is so timely. Every company has to figure out what their plan is for totally remaking their customer service processes starting right now.
Adam: You know, Jay, I see this just escalating up to the sort of more strategic level. And you’ve talked about, obviously with Convince and Convert, you’re across a broad range of sales and marketing and P.R. and customer service related issues. And I’m reading more and more about, you know, the four Ps are commoditized and customer experience is the new battleground. Yet are you sort of saying customer service has become the key strategic focus for brands? Or you know, the key issue marketing teams of today should be focused on? You know, where are you sort of ranking customer service in the mix of things that contribute to, I guess the, yeah, the broader customer experience?
Jay: Sure, I think customer service is a huge part of the customer experience story. I believe it is the most linear high between customer experience and revenue. Because if you can’t keep your existing customers happy, you can create terrific customer experiences, but all you’re doing is filling a leaky bucket. So to me, companies have no business trying to create amazing customer experiences unless you can handle great customer service on the back end. Right? And so, you know, to kind of put this in a social media context, what I used to tell companies all the time, clients of ours, is look, if you can’t send out a decent e-mail newsletter once a week, why are you coming to me to help you figure out how to do a great tweet once an hour? Like you’ve got the cart and the horse totally mixed up, which is I think one of the issues we have right now. Everybody wants to talk about customer experience and how it drives marketing and customer acquisition and that’s all true. But if that customer experience doesn’t translate down to how do you take care of people who have already given you money, then, then you’re just playing a shell game.
Adam: Is the challenge, Jay, maybe the nature of the typical marketing team of today and the experience that they may be had in the last decade or so, I mean, you know, this is hard yakka. This may be not the sexiest part of your job, to build call centres and contact rooms, and respond to mundane tweets. But yeah, it’s maybe not something that’s glamorous, if you like, or interests the typical marketer.
Jay: Yeah that’s definitely a part of it, and nor has it been the responsibility of the typical marketer, much less their interest. But it’s funny you say that. I’m doing a webinar soon for a group of hundreds of advertising and public relations agencies. And the title of the webinar is ‘Agencies, You Now Need To Help Your Customers With Customer Service’. Like they have to now be able to play a role in this game, be able to help their clients do this better. It is something that agencies and professional services providers need to play a part in, in a way that they haven’t historically,
Adam: Jay, great stuff. So look, tell the listeners when, you know, what’s the timeline? When’s the book coming out?
Jay: The book is available for pre-order right now. The best place to get the book is hugyourhaters.com, which as I say this is a disastrous website that I built in like seven minutes. Don’t hold it against me but hundreds and hundreds of people have already bought the book there, so I know it actually works. So thank you to all of them. The brand new hug your haters website will be out soon with all kinds of other new awesome bonus stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. The book itself will be available March 1st of next year. But if you preorder the book, you will get digital access to it as early as December 15th. So you’ll actually get a digital copy of the book some ten weeks before it’s available in print, if you pre-order the book from me at hugyourhaters.com
Adam: Great stuff. Look, I’ll link all of those things in the show notes. I was lucky enough to get a pre-order copy of the book. I can’t recommend the book highly enough. As I said earlier in the interview, if you’re sort of face palming and going, ‘What? Another book on customer service? There’s dozens of those around; it really is, you know, it’s packed with science and research and case studies and interviews. And it’s just a deep dive into customer service in the digital age. So highly recommend the book. Jay, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast. It’s been great. Now as a returning guest, I very, at pace, had to redesign the quick fire round. So are you all set for the adapted phase two quick fire questions?
Jay: I am ready for the phase two of the quick fire. Thank you and thanks for having me back. I’m honoured, and thanks for the kind words about Hug Your Haters.
Adam: Jay, question one, Meerkat, Periscope, or Blab? Which is your favourite and which will have more users in 12 months’ time?
Jay: I think my favourite is Blab because it has that extra kind of video comments group feel, although I like them all. I wrote a blog post recently about the fact that I think Blab will take podcasting to the next level. We’re starting to experiment more with Blab ourselves on our own podcasts at Convince to Convert. In terms of more users, I think Blab is a superior platform, and I think it will eventually supersede the others. But the fact that that Periscope is tied so closely to Twitter, with that installed base makes me think probably Periscope within the timeframe that you mentioned.
Adam: Okay, great answer. Blab getting a lot of love at the moment and certainly some momentum there. Question two. Jay, if you could give your 21-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Jay: If I could give my 21-year-old self one piece of advice, it would be listen to your elders. I was a precocious 21-year-old. I had done a lot of stuff, even professionally at that age. And I genuinely believed–I was working for an agency and a bunch of other things–I genuinely believed I should have been in charge of the whole place. I mean…and that’s not ironic or overblown. I was like look, why am I not the president of this company? And I was an intern and I literally was like why am I not running this place? I mean I was a smarter than average intern but still, I generally thought like why am I taking orders from these guys? And then I recognized 25 years later that maybe I wasn’t quite as smart as I thought.
Adam: Love it. Great answer. And question three, Jay, if you could only follow three people on Twitter, who would they be?
Jay: Oh, I forgot you were going to ask me this and I was going to prep this up and I didn’t. I’m such a fool. Okay, if I could only follow three people on Twitter, okay. I’m going to say, Guy Kawasaki, even though he just sort of like, you know, sort of has Twitter diarrhoea and just sort of tweets everything. But within that significant amount of noise, there is some signal. He has some interesting stuff every day. I think he’s a pretty good follow. Other people, I would say I’m a huge fan of Jim Gaffigan, who’s probably my favourite comedian. Great, great guy. You’ve got to have somebody in there who’s funny in your Twitter feed, for sure. And then I would also put Mitch Joel in there. He doesn’t tweet as much as some people, but Mitch is a dear friend of mine and one of my very, very favourite practitioners of digital marketing and marketing in general.
Adam: Great answer. And by putting Guy in there, even with only three people, you still have a pretty crowded stream.
Jay: Well said and very true. Guy was kind enough to blurb the book and tell people that everybody in the world should buy it.
Adam: We love Guy and also love Mitch Joel’s work and his podcast. Great answer. I will link those up in the show notes. Jay, thank you once again for coming back on the podcast. Hug Your Haters, coming out in March and earlier as advised by Jay previously. Jay, before I let you go, anywhere else you’d like to send people beyond the domains you said earlier, for people wanting to learn a bit more about your online activities?
Jay: Yeah go to convinceandconvert.com. We’ve got our award winning blog, daily emails, seven podcasts a week. We’ve got everything for the marketer. It’s all right there.
Adam: Jay, thanks so much and all the best for the book.
Jay: Oh, thanks so much. I really appreciate the time.
Here are the show notes for this interview with Jay Baer