I read Jack Mitchell’s book, Hug Your Customers when it was first released in 2003. I loved it then and continue to recommend his book to clients, colleagues and friends. To my great delight, Jack released an updated version in 2015.
Jack is CEO of Mitchells/Richards/Marshs/Wilkes, a three-generation family business that operates high-end brand men’s and women’s specialty stores in Connecticut, New York and California. As the son of a retail men’s clothier, my father taught me everything I know about creating and nurturing personalized relationships and generating repeat business. I admire Jack’s philosophy and his success and appreciate that he chronicled his wisdom.
He explains it started out that each individual sale was transaction-based: “the interaction with the customer began and ended with the transaction. You sold someone suits and you had no idea what they were going to do with the suits – end of the discussion. Today, it’s not enough to make a sale, we have to ask the customer what he is using those suits for.”
I took the liberty of highlighting, paraphrasing and categorizing a number of Jack’s other core principles that every organization should consider implementing. Words from Jack Mitchell…
Welcome: Not only do we welcome customers as guests in our home, we welcome them as friends; give them a friendly greeting. We also understand new customers require extra assistance because they feel tentative in an unknown territory
Know Your Customers: Know your customers more than your merchandise; without prying, learn about your customers and especially your top volume accounts. Find out their names, kid’s names, preferences, etc. Know your customers and they will keep coming back. Take a personal interest; don’t ask, “how can I help you?” – ask about the customer, not the product they are looking for
Keep Track: We don’t want to have customers by chance; maintain records on the percentage of new customers that are returning within one year and find out why the others didn’t return. We also created a new category of customers who may not be our top sales volume accounts, but always recommend us
Build Relationships: Once a customer, always a friend. “Companies understand that relationships are important, but we understand the importance of making them work.” Caring about people comes first; doing business with a company that makes them feel special is special; customers will stop by just to get an emotional pick up
When Jack first wrote Hug Your Customers in 2003, he did not include any reference to eCommerce. Twelve years ago, Jack could not have envisioned that some customers might prefer clicking a mouse than walking into one of their stores. Using Jack’s philosophy of ensuring that everything done in his store must always support “hugging” Jack came up with a solution that I recommend to every audience I address or any client seeking advice. Use technology to enhance the customer experience, not diminish it. Don’t push your customers who crave emotional bonds and personalized service onto a device that eliminates your company’s biggest competitive advantage. Jack offers his customers a choice between a traditional eCommerce model and one where they can shop online with the help of a trusted associate.
They can self-serve if they elect or choose their own personal style advisor who can get to know them, counsel them and most importantly either create a new relationship or build upon one that was already established. “The system is designed so that customers feel connected to their sales associate first, and the company second.”
Jack Mitchell understands that in almost any business, generating repeat patrons is based on building relationships between two people. It’s a misguided conception that your business can flourish without having staff capable of building bonds. That means giving “hugs” to employees, too, the concept behind another one of Jack’s books; Hug your People. Unless you hug your associates, you will experience high staff turnover and creating a business model where customers can become attached to employees will be fruitless.