Really? Is that a thing? I hear you ask. If you think that hugging your customers sounds a bit over friendly, read on dear reader, read on.
When I say ‘hug your customers’, do I mean just that or do I mean something more along the lines of:
‘Give your customers something out of the ordinary’ or:
‘Go the extra mile for your customers’ or even:
‘Give your customers an experience they will never forget.’
Well, yes, all of the above – including hugging your customers if it feels like the right thing to do in that situation.
Still not convinced? Let me tell you a story – well two in fact. One is my own story; something which happened in a shop in Islington where I live and went way beyond what is deemed ‘normal’ or even ‘good’ customer service. The other story is from the maestro of customer experience: Mark Schaefer.
Story 1: Mark Schaefer:
Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Schaefer talk at #smmw19. Mark’s talk was inspiring, moving and told in such an honest and down to earth way that he could have been sitting opposite me talking to just me. (I had a similar experience hearing Mari Smith talk too, such a skill.).
Mark told a story which some of you may know about his trip to a hotel he regularly visited on his business trips. The customer service advisor at the front desk knew Mark, she had made an effort to get to know him, his likes, dislikes etc.
One day Mark arrived at the hotel somewhat discombobulated after a tricky journey, bad day etc. (you can read more of the details in his blog post: https://businessesgrow.com/2016/12/12/hugged-by-a-brand
The lady at the front desk, Terry was her name, sensed Mark’s angst and sent a bowl of fruit up to his room. Now that is a nice gesture right?
She not only did that but, on checking out, she gave him a hug. Many people would think this to be a bit weird but she judged it just right; she had read Mark and his situation so well that she knew it would not cause him offence but would make him feel better about his day, his visit.
In fact Mark mentioned this higher up the Hyatt chain and Terry was praised highly by her employers. Mark has spoken and blogged about this story many times – what a difference that hug made.
Story 2: my story:
My story – yes it is as good I promise (!), happened at the ladies clothing store: Toast on Upper Street, London.
A lady arrived in the store one morning pushing a little girl in a buggy and carrying a baby in a baby carrier on her front. She looked rushed, tired and very stressed.
She burst into the store and started looking at the clothes, but not really looking – she was distracted by the toddler who was chatting incessantly and the baby who was waking up and would soon need feeding.
Shortly, the assistant went over to the lady and asked if she needed help (that’s normal, I get it). The lady replied in flustered way: ‘I just need some new clothes’. The shop assistant read the situation immediately and, ignoring the woman, bent down to talk to the toddler.
She got right down at eye level and said: ‘Hi, my name is Ann,’ (not her real name but it’s good enough for here), ‘what’s your name?’
‘Ruby.’ (again not her real name) the little girl replied.
Ann chatted to the girl for a while, asking her what it was like to be a big sister, what her teddy was called etc. before asking the girl; ‘Do you want to help me choose some clothes for Mummy while she sits in a chair and gives your baby sister some milk?’
The little girl squealed for joy, grabbed the shop assistant’s hand and said ‘yes yes yes!’.
The shop assistant let ‘Ruby’ out of her buggy, talked to the lady about sizes, styles etc, saw her to the changing room, found a blanket for the baby to lay on and proceeded to walk around the shop hand in hand with the toddler choosing clothes ‘that Ruby thinks mummy will like’.
Two hours later the lady walked out of the store with 9 items of clothing smashing all sales records for that, and the previous, month.
The result of this was that Mum was elated and relaxed, she had a wardrobe of clothes, the baby had been fed and had wriggled on the blanket so was ready for another sleep, and the toddler had been made to feel very special.
The shop assistant was exhausted but happy: not only for achieving all those amazing things but also because it was her 2nd day in the job and the CEO of Toast just happened to be visiting the store at the time and witnessed the sale!
What can we learn here?
OK, so you may be thinking that the lady with the baby was myself. No, in fact I was the shop assistant. I worked at Toast for a brief time while studying for my diploma in social media. I had no idea whether it was acceptable for me to treat a customer in this way (it really was my 2nd day), it just seemed the right thing to do. My manager – an amazing lady called Jess McInstosh – just let me roll with it. Jess always thought outside the box and let her staff do the same if it meant the customer was happy.
My time at Toast taught me a lot about customer service and how important it is to go the extra mile. It doesn’t have to be any grand gesture – it can be something as small as a hug or just taking time to properly engage with the customer – it really is the little things that people notice.
I don’t tell this story to brag about how well I did but to illustrate how easy it can be to go the extra mile, do what is needed for your customers, and how that can help a brand succeed.
If you make your customers feel happy, if you leave them with a positive experience around your business, they will spend more time engaging with your brand and, in turn they will spend more money with your company.
Not only that – if your company or organization makes someone feel happy, they’re going to tell other people how you make them feel. They will do your marketing for you.
Can the answer to growing your business really be that simple?