This week I read Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell.
I was actually assigned this book by one of my professors to read for a class.
Jack Mitchell is the Chairman of Mitchell Stores. Speaking from decades of personal experience, Mitchell shares the how and why behind hugging your customer whenever you can. This book is all about customer service as you can imagine, and I loved it! Here are the three main points that stood out to me!
Here is a video of me discussing the book.
Lead by example
We should all be striving to offer amazing customer service. In order to achieve that, we should focus on the customer, right? Well, sorta. Mitchell argues that by focusing on employees and treating them well, we can indirectly improve customer service satisfaction. Mitchell shares various stories showing how important it is to get to know your employees on a personal level and develop meaningful relationships with them.
The purpose of this is to gain a better understanding of how each employee likes to be treated at work, as everybody’s preferences are different. For example, which employees like being greeted every morning, and which ones prefer being left alone? Your employees will recognize your efforts and feel encouraged to treat the customers in a warm and hospitable way.
It may seem simple, and quite honestly it is. However, it is an easily overlooked idea because we don’t directly associate this concept with customer service. This book is 100% about building a customer-oriented business, but as a leader, consider focusing on an employee-oriented business, and allow the employees to then engage the customers in the same way.
Personalize the relationship with passion with each and every person that you have working for you or with you, so they know you and you know them.
Long-term vs. Short-term
Any business looking to succeed has to make profits. However, Mitchell shares multiple personal stories that highlight the importance of investing in customers and accepting lesser short-term gains, in order to nurture relationships that will provide greater long-term gains. Too many businesses are focused on converting the sale in that moment and see the monetary transaction as the end.
However, Mitchell teaches us that a monetary transaction should just be the beginning. Amongst many incredible services offered, Mitchell and his employees send thank you notes, and flowers to their customers because they truly appreciate their business. Now, sending flowers costs time and money, but with the long-term relationship mentality, these actions are common sense. These types of genuine acts of kindness and appreciation help foster meaningful customer relationships. Mitchell is adamant that such actions are worth it, as the customer will recognize your outstanding service and be more likely to continually return to your business.
So, in the grand scheme of things, that $20 investment in your customer will have been more than worth it. Now you may argue that this approach is idealistic and although as a business owner it should make you happy to make a difference in someone’s life and make them smile, these types of customer-oriented actions are smart financial decisions. In a world that is dominated by e-commerce, the only way you can compete with 2-day shipping and an unlimited array of product options available at the click of a button, is to make people feel special and develop meaningful relationships that will drive customers to seek your business time after time.
Many great businesses have lost sight of the fact that customers are the most important part of their business. They’re too focused on product, too focused on the price.
Raise the bar
We should always be working towards better. Mitchell refers to this as raising the bar. What is considered 10/10 customer service today will merely be 5/10 in five or ten years, because the market will adjust and those services considered to be exceptional will be the new norm.
It’s important to understand that providing the same service year after year is risky. Naturally your core principles and values shouldn’t change, but the actions you take to stay aligned with those values should mature over time. We should always be trying to innovate and improve. Ask yourself, what can I do to offer even better service? Even if you’re at the top of your game now, if you get too comfortable, the competition will surpass you.
We may be a 9 or 10 in 2015, but if we close our eyes, we could be a 6 or 7 in 2020. If we do nothing new from now on, we might become a 3 in 2030.
Maybe it’s just me, but I love books that have chapter summaries, and this book has exactly that. Having these chapter summaries allows me to quickly take note of key ideas without having to page through the book again.
I also love that Mitchell shares a variety of personal examples from his own business. Although they aren’t all directly transferable to other business models, the concepts and principles can be adapted to suit your business needs. The personal stories Mitchell mentions are relevant and truly highlight the value of constantly showering your customer with physical and metaphorical hugs.
Honestly, I didn’t have many issues with this book. The only negative I could think of is that I found certain sections slightly repetitive. However, I think Mitchell needed to be repetitive at times to emphasize his point.
Who should read this?
Small business owners, this book is for you! If you are looking to improve customer relationships and understand how to compete against your online competitors, you need to read this! You may be a small business, with a small budget, but Mitchell will teach you that hugging your customers and delivering outstanding service fits into the tightest of budgets!
I also think that leaders looking to learn how to improve employee morale and performance should read this book. Even though Mitchell focuses on customer relationships, there is an entire chapter dedicated to engaging your employees.
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