Today, January 21, is National Hugging Day. While you may feel inclined to wrap your arms around a loved one, friend or even coworker (ask first, please), hugging means something different to RJE-ers. In 2003, RJE adopted Jack Mitchell’s Hug Your Customer book as a company credo. With Mr. Mitchell’s obsession with the customer experience always in our heads, we try to go above and beyond and “hug” our clients — offering them a service or unexpected pleasantry that feels equal to an actual hug.
In honor of the day, we asked our team members to tell us what “hugging” means to them and their favorite example of when they’ve “hugged” a customer. Read below to see how Team RJE has gone above and beyond for our customers.
For me, hugging your customer means doing every single thing you can to provide the best customer service possible. One of my clients, a church based in Cincinnati, had a huge event coming up but were unable to order seating in time to ensure the chairs would be there. We were able to work with the manufacturer to move the order up, but the delivery truck wouldn’t be able to deliver until after the event! I drove down to Louisville to their warehouse to pick up the chairs and deliver them to the client before the event. The event was important to the customer, so it was important to me.
I believe hugging the customer is going the extra mile to ensure they trust us enough to drive the process on their behalf. It’s wonderful when you grow close enough to a customer to actually hug them! One of my more significant hugs was for a recent project where we had a 2,300 lb. scissors table that needed to get to the 3rd floor of a new office building. Despite everyone’s doubts, we pulled every single ounce of strength we had on our team — including our college football-playing intern — to get that table to the 3rd floor. It was a literal load off for the client.
For me, hugging the customer is doing absolutely whatever it takes to take care of a customer. For one project, we had crucial product that had apparently shipped, but didn’t arrive on schedule. Install was quickly approaching and the customer needed assurance that the product would be on-hand. We discovered that the product had been delayed by a snowstorm and would arrive at the RJE warehouse at 2 AM. I got up and met the truck at RJE at 2 AM, in a blizzard, to ensure the product had arrived in good condition. With a quick email to the client, we were in good shape for the installation the next day.
I’ve come to learn that hugging the customer doesn’t have to necessarily be a grand gesture. It’s anything that makes the customer’s life easier and allows them to focus more on their day-to-day work and not the furniture-buying process. I had a client who was desperate for new chairs, but their internal processes had some hurdles they had to overcome before order placement. Some team members were even using broken task chairs! I coordinated with a few of our manufacturer reps to secure some sample chairs for the team to use while they waited. It also allowed them to do an extended sit test, which later influenced their purchasing decision.
Hugging the customer means treating customers like family and doing something beyond what was expected. A few years ago, a local news company was renovating its newsroom and inquired about purchasing temporary desks while they were under construction. We were able to loan them 30 to 40 desks for the duration of their construction — six months! We were later able to resell the desks to another organization that needed some discounted product. That may be a double hug!
I think hugging extends beyond the customer and into our community. Every year, RJE Louisville hosts our Reason for the Season event in support of Metro United Way — a gathering where we open our doors to our clients, partners, friends, and family to give back to families in need during the holiday season. We assemble snack packs for hungry children and personal care kits for the underprivileged elderly. Whatever food is leftover from the evening is carefully packed and taken to a local homeless shelter. There is no selling, no furniture demos — just giving. That is fundamental to the RJE way.