“Hug Your Customers” concisely and at the same time in a lively, vibrant and entertaining manner talks about reliable methods of service and building relationships with customers.
Jack Mitchell’s advice will be useful to any retailer or small business, and in addition, will be invaluable to the owners of family businesses. The book traces the direct connection between the quality of customer service and commercial success.
Jack Mitchell is the head of Mitchell’s highly successful family-owned clothing store chain. Mitchell writes books on corporate strategy and gives lectures at Harvard University. Daily News Records was recognized as one of the ten most advanced retail professionals of its time.
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If you have ever worked in a retail store or service industry, then you know that most companies, when instructing employees, are limited to the insignificant phrase “the customer is always right.” And if some kind of training is organized, they are advised to smile at most and repeat
“How can I help you?”
But if the client really has a request or needs additional services, companies rarely go forward.
This order of things should not be maintained. Companies can and should do everything possible for customers if they want to keep these customers. This book is based on the experience of one of the most successful retail chain owners in the United States – it describes the development of a culture of exemplary customer service and the process of gaining the trust of any customer who purchases products or services.
You will find out
- Why do animals need to be allowed to the store?
- How did repairing the button help the author enter the US Open for free?
- Why should the store always be open if the customer needs something?
Introduce a “Hug Culture” by Learning What Customers Want
Regardless of what you do, take as a rule one indisputable truth: success comes when customers are satisfied.
Of course, it’s easy to say. And how to make the customer happy? For this, there is a “culture of hugs.”
It means that customers get everything they want, and for this, you first need to understand what they want.
The author applies this strategy to Mitchell’s clothing store chain. Mitchell’s employees call customers by name and establish long-term relationships with them, learning in this way what customers really want.
Turning to the customer, Mitchell’s consultants avoid the general question, “Can I help you?” Instead, they ask personal questions — where are you going to wear it? Choose clothes for work or leisure? More specific questions deepen customer understanding.
Getting customers closer, employees build relationships with them, which gives an even greater understanding of their preferences.
This attitude towards the client pays off in full. Satisfied customers help advance to other areas, forgive mistakes and even call to their home.
One day, Mitchell’s employee, at the request of a client, fixed a button on a jacket bought in another store. The woman’s name was Robin Gerstner, she was the wife of Louis Gerstner, a former IBM CEO. Gerstner was so impressed by Mitchell’s attitude towards customers that they invited the author of the book to the US Open championship and spoke of his company as “the best clothing store in the world.”
Be Physically Open to the Client
A hug in the “hug culture” is not only a metaphor. It is sometimes very useful to establish physical contact with clients. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, physical contact is pleasant to people – everyone likes to feel such emotional support.
The author learned this in a family company when the company was still very young, the author’s mother, Norma Mitchell, made it a rule to hug each client and personally prepare coffee for customers as close friends of the family. When the company grew, the tradition was maintained, and is maintained to this day.
However, it is not necessary to embrace clients as a positive physical contact. Other gestures, for example, to shake hands, or to give “five”, can bring closer to the buyer.
If the customer is shy, bring his bags or offer a napkin. Such small gestures can have a big impact.
The service can be made more personal. If an employee is asked to show you how to get through, it’s better to do it than just give directions. The author mentions a story about how a client in one store asked where to find a section of clothes, and the consultant simply waved his hand, trying to “convince” the buyer. The customer left the store and never returned.
You can go further, for example, to personally deliver products to customers. The author tells how one winter he drove the whole city to the port and waited several hours to pass the jacket to an important client.
Become physically more accessible to the client – hug the buyer or deliver his purchases.
Treat Every Customer as a Royal Person, Take Care of His Children and Pets
It’s not very pleasant to go to the store and hear the standard jagged “Welcome to X, my name is Y, can I help you?” The client feels that he is being treated the same way as everyone else.
Therefore, successful companies treat each client as a VIP person. Buyers like to be pampered.
There are several ways to achieve this. At Mitchell’s, clients are sent personal letters and flowers on special holidays – for a birthday or for a wedding, for example. Stores sometimes work even after closing if the customer has an emergency.
Mitchell’s employee broke away from watching an important football match and opened a store because the buyer forgot clothes. People do not forget this attitude. And do not forget that the children of clients also deserve a good attitude. Everything you do for the customer’s family helps build trust.
Mitchell’s stores have a play area where both children and parents can relax. For children, cartoons are shown on the big screen, and there is a treat, so often the kids do not want to leave. Such a zone is another reason to return to the store.
It is also worth treating pet buyers. The huge sign “DOGS ARE FORBIDDEN” will scare away many. At Mitchell’s, they ask for the name of the pet and monitor its future fate if the buyer comes with a dog.
Collect All Company Departments in One Building
Now you know what a hugging culture is – it’s time to move on to its implementation. The first step is to assemble all the departments of the company in one building.
It’s not just about saving on rent. This approach is beneficial to the buyer. When the marketing, planning, and sales departments are in the same building, it becomes much easier to satisfy any client’s wishes.
So, the buyer at Mitchell’s once was upset at not finding purple socks in the store and asked to add them to the assortment. Working smoothly together, the departments added the right item to the assortment in just a day.
This approach also makes it easier to solve potential problems. If one arises, departments come to a joint, quick solution.
If all the sellers are busy, and, according to the culture of hugs, someone must meet the buyer at the door, the marketing department can temporarily replace the sellers.
The collaboration of all departments complements the hugging culture. At Mitchell’s, employees carry out assignments from other departments in their free time, which gives them a better understanding of the company. If an employee is dissatisfied with his work, he may take on another.
The Placement of All Departments in One Building is Beneficial for Both Employees and Customers.
Provide a data system for customers and employees
Of course, the functioning of the embrace culture largely depends on the hall employees and their interpersonal skills, but technological equipment also plays a role. Databases play an important role in hug culture
Databases allow customers to get help or access to the necessary information in the store. Mitchell’s has a highly developed database and information terminals in the hall. Both buyers and sellers use them to quickly browse collections and complete sets.
If the client does not remember the exact name or type of product, it can be found in the catalog by color, size or type. Mitchell’s email, e-commerce, and M-Pix systems also help employees provide tailor-made clothing tips for each client.
Electronic data is used not only by hall employees, but also accountants, merchandisers, and marketers. Data combines different departments.
Databases also help maintain order when making any changes. In Mitchell’s, there was a case when customers messed up their purchases, and the employee was able to very quickly understand who bought what goods and make an appointment with customers.
Catalogs also allow customers to adjust purchase prices during financial difficulties – for example, sort purchases by price or find similar ones, but cheaper.
In general, buyers need an online database that stores their preferences. A carefully debugged database is an indispensable tool in a hug culture.
Create a hug culture that works even in times of crisis
Customer service is the number one task, but how to maintain it at the proper level in the current economic conditions? Fortunately, there are some tips on this.
First of all, it is necessary to study all segments of the company and establish where stability is most important during a crisis. It is necessary to pay special attention to expenses and reduce their level in accordance with income, if necessary.
So, if marketing took $ 50,000 in 2009, and the current level of income is comparable to the level of income in 2009, then the marketing expenses should be the same as in 2009.
Hire a good financier who will help return the business to its previous level. A customer-oriented business should not ignore serious financial problems.
However, never forget that customers and a hugging culture remain a priority. If you have to reduce the number of products and services, choose what customers are least affected by. You will make a very bad impression by removing from the assortment what people have become accustomed to for years.
Remember That Buyers Also Suffer From the Crisis. In Difficult Times, You Can Offer Them to Pay in Installments.
It is unreasonable to refuse high-quality products to customers due to temporary financial problems. Offer them a loan. Otherwise, in the long run, such customers will not return to you after the crisis.
Crises are a matter of time, and you can stay afloat while remaining committed to customers and a hugging culture.
The Final Words
Surround the client with your arms – physically, emotionally and financially.
Do your best for them, even when it does not bring instant profit.
Long-term customer relationships are built on trust and respect. Attention to customers is not only pleasant to them and brings you profit – you will also feel better.
Do not let statistics, organizational structure or business courses limit you – think wider.
Do not be afraid to try new things. Always look for new ways to please customers, even if no one has done this before. Although attention to the client’s dog is a rather fun method, it already works at Mitchell’s.
- Be enthusiastic about building relationships with your customers.
- If errors happen, consider them as new opportunities.
Why You Should Read “Hug Your Customers”
- To build strong bonds with your clients
- To increase loyalty and sales
- To grow your business by learning how to take care of its most important part – customers
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