Be the Chief Hug Officer and Hug Your Customers


Have you ever seen an angry customer who becomes even angrier because they’re not getting what they want? It’s an emotional storm, a tornado that pulls everyone into its funnel, including  any customers who are watching.

Those watching feel awkward and just want to leave … not a good thing for your business or an exceptional customer experience . The angry customer may have started out rational but has lost control of their emotions and more often than not, it is company policies that turn them and the situation into this nightmare.

What turns them into irrational people? The disastrous process is often the same:

  1. Customer becomes dissatisfied and asks for satisfaction.
  2. They only get company policies which light the customer’s fuse
  3. Customer then continues to ask for satisfaction, perhaps from a manager who continues to quote company policies.
  4. The customer loses control of their emotions and keeps pushing only to be met with further resistance and no resolution.

By now, your staff has also lost control of their emotions and doubles down on the policies. And then …

All this customer needed from the beginning was a hug.

Now, I don’t mean a physical hug because that might get you sued. What I mean is creating a feeling that tells the customer that you care and want to help them.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common that company policies fail to keep the customer experience, their emotions  in mind simply because these are profit driven policies verses customer experience driven policies.

One example, would be  a store with a 7 day return policy versus one with a 90 day return policy. One store trusts the customer while other does not. I shop at one particular club store because their return policy is almost unlimited. And yes, while some customers will take advantage of that, it is a small percentage. The greatest percentage, the profit producing percentage will not and will simply “love” doing business there. (L.L. Bean must be an exception or was looking for an “out” of their lifetime guarantee. They could have just required needing a receipt. )

Not only am I part of that club store’s profit producing percentage, I help the store’s profits because I’m an “engaged customer.” I practically evangelize for them. I tell all my friends that a membership to this store is worth every penny simply for the customer service and return policy. A Gallup Poll study states that an “engaged” customer  like me adds 23% more profit over the average customer.

The angry, disengaged customer wreaks havoc and “actively” seeks to sink your business. The good news is, however, that you have a lot of control over your customer’s experience.

Follow these steps to hug your customers

  1. Review your company customer experience policies. Are they profit driven or customer experience driven.
  2. Review procedures for resolving customer issues. Your customer facing people must be trained on what to say, starting with some form of “I’m sorry,” and have genuine empathy in their disposition. It’s how you say it that truly matters. This starts with all your managers!
  3. Are your people empowered to deliver a great customer experience? If your people need to get a manager to resolve even minor issues, then either you don’t trust your employees or they have not been trained. If you don’t trust your employees, why are they in this critical role?
  4. Review your hiring policies. Hire only people with the right EQ for dealing with customers. Make sure they have the necessary traits to please customers as well as resolve issues. It’s easy to smile when the customer is handing you money and all is well. It’s when the going gets tough that you need people with the right skills. If an emotional storm starts, your people have to know how to hold on. Part of their skill must include keeping calm to control their own emotions. It’s not personal. It’s a customer who needs help.
  5. Do not pass the buck, if possible. The fuse burns faster when people are “transferred.” If you need help resolving the issue from another person or department, stay with the customer, if you can, and explain that you’re finding the best way to help them. Only transfer as a last resort. Make sure this is the right transfer and explain why this person or department is the best and fastest way to help them.
  6. Never “blame” another department or person. This undermines the company and sends a bad message of company incompetence.
  7. Always tell a customer what you “can” do for them and never what you “can’t” do. This sends a positive message that you’re trying to help them.
  8. Before you offer a resolution, ask the customer how you can help make this right. Unless it’s obvious (which will make you look silly), they often ask for less than what you’re prepared to offer so there’s no need to give away the store.
  9. Talk is cheap. If all you can do is say you’re sorry or sorry that they feel that way without offering a resolution, that’s a passive apology and that also says  its the customer’s fault for not controlling their emotions. You must offer a solution, not just an answer. No is an answer.
  10. Follow up with some form of survey to make sure they’re happy. This tells your customer that you genuinely care if they had a great experience. Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. Companies should not view absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. Indifference is a customer killer.

Customer-centric policies and a company culture that “hug” your customers will prevent emotional storms and increase customer success. Your customers will feel hugged if you have the right empowered people  backed by policies and management who prove to the customer that the company genuinely cares about more than just their money. Do this and you build engaged customers who feel all warm and fuzzy about doing business with you. These people can’t wait to tell their friends about how great your company is, which translates into increased sales and higher profits! A happy ending for everyone.

– Please read my other posts for ways to help improve your company’s customer experience and share it if you’ve found it helpful.


About the Author

Gerry Criscenzo, founder of Advanced Service Knowledge is passionate about delivering an exceptional customer experience.  He has over 30 years experience managing customer facing teams in very demanding customer service  industries such as automotive services, IT Services and Home Remodeling/Contractor Services. Gerry is available for consulting, keynote speaking and training.   Read more

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