Jack Mitchell: Hug Your Customers and Employees
By Tom Ryan
Tossing any sexual harassment
complications aside, Jack Mitchell, chief executive officer of Mitchells,
the high-end clothier of Westport, CT, believes the key to success for store
owners is to “hug”
their customers and their workers.
“It’s getting to
know each person on a personalized, individual basis,” Mr. Mitchell
said last week to about 160 people under a tent at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk,
CT, according to The News-Times.
“Hugging is an absolute mind-set, trying to determine what’s important
Mr. Mitchell, who also
owns Richards in Greenwich, CT, and Marshs in
Huntington, L.I, is the author of Hug Your Customers (2003). According
to a review on Amazon, the book “has nothing to do with being touchy-feely
around them and everything to do with offering them over-the-top service.” In
2008, his second book, Hug Your People, elaborated on how hiring,
motivating and keeping great employees is a company’s greatest asset.
As an example, Mr. Mitchell
recalled that one time a customer called the store at 10 a.m. looking for
two suits by 5 p.m. that day because he had to speak at a seminar in Switzerland.
Debra Gampel, his regular sales associate, looked
up his profile on the computer and had all the clothes he needed picked
out before he arrived at the store. Later that day, the suits were delivered
to his home, Mr. Mitchell said.
But the biggest “hug” for
that customer came, Mr. Mitchell said, when he took a card out of his pocket
at the Swiss seminar and discovered it was from Ms. Gampel, wishing him a happy birthday.
“The stuffy Swiss
bankers actually clapped,” said Mr. Mitchell. “We really try
to focus on you as a real person.”
Other examples from Hug
Your Customer include literally offering a customer the coat off
your back, if that’s the only one left in the store in the customer’s
size and preferred style and color. It may mean going to customers’ homes
to tie their bow ties for big events. “Hugging” may also involve
serving coffee and bagels in the store and giving away hot dogs in the
parking lot on summer Saturdays.
For employees, “hugging” involves
establishing personal relationships with workers, and personally tailoring
rewards and recognition to their specific interests. It may also include
a gift certificate to a chic restaurant for a food lover or a round of
golf for a golfer on staff.
Do you really care about those people around you?” said Stew Leonard
Jr., chief executive officer of Stew Leonard’s, who also spoke at the event. “You
have to care about a person’s career more than they do.”
To what extent is the concept of “hugging” customers and employees
more relevant to high-end boutiques such as Mitchells rather than general
merchandisers, grocers or other retail formats? What can other channels
take from Mitchells’ over-the-top customer and associate approach?
- ‘Hugging’ leads to better business,
author says – The News-Times
- Hug Your People – Amazon
- Hug Your Employees – Amazon