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Jack Mitchell: Remember, Every Employee Wants to Be Appreciated

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The following article is an excerpt from Hug Your People: The Proven Way to Hire, Inspire and Recognize Your Employees and Achieve Remarkable Results by Jack Mitchell.

Everyone Wants to Be Appreciated

Not long ago, a fabulous woman came to work for us at one of our clothing stores in Connecticut. At her last job, by anyone’s definition, she was a real superstar. She worked hard, putting in endless extra hours without complaint. Her customers adored her. She made good money. The fringe benefits were generous.

So we had to wonder, why in the world did she want to leave New York and join our team in Connecticut?

It was simple.

Nobody at the other company ever let her know in any sort of personal way that she was valued. Even after selling a million dollars worth of merchandise in just one year — and that’s an awful lot of shirts and ties — no one, not a single person, ever came up to her and said, “Wow, great job! You’re terrific.”

No! Not once! Never, ever!

Did her boss ever send her a bouquet of flowers in gratitude?

Not a single daisy.

And that hurt. It made her job feel like, oh well, a job.

Everyone wants to be appreciated!

I’m the CEO of a third-generation upper-end men’s and women’s specialty clothing business with three large stores in the New York area. I wrote a book about how my family and our associates built our business by being passionate about establishing extraordinary personal relationships. It was called Hug Your Customers. Giving great personalized customer service has always been the foremost goal of my family, since my parents Norma and Ed Mitchell founded the business in 1958. And one thing we never lose sight of is you don’t give extraordinary customer service in a vacuum — great people give great, personalized service!

Every company presumably wants successful, loyal workers. Yet it appears to me that others focus only on hugging their product and on making a better widget, golf ball, or high-definition TV, or putting some new bells and whistles on it. Or when sales are lagging, they focus on price — never thinking that if they treated their associates with greater personal care,ß they would work harder and smarter and would feel like going the extra mile to hug a customer because they feel hugged themselves!

Becoming People-Centric

People spend more time at the office than at home and want to feel personal and professional satisfaction from their daily work experience.

Often, the only time an employee hears from his boss is when he screws up and gets screamed at. You know, it’s easy to put someone down. Some would say that the tough part is to build someone up. But it can be the most satisfying work a manager does.

And when hugging permeates a company, it becomes a people-centric culture.

Know What Shelly and Anthony Want

I continue to hear from others in companies that aren’t people-centric that employers barely know the individuals who carry on the work, and they surely don’t know about the personal concerns so germane to their lives. They don’t know that Shelly is worried because she’s desperately saving to buy a house in a better school district. They don’t know that Anthony put his mother in a nursing home last weekend. They don’t even know that Elizabeth prefers to be called Lisa.

Companies don’t get it that it’s not nearly enough to have periodic employee recognition programs. It’s how they are treated every day. It’s the little things, the little hugs. The appreciation and attention that don’t cost a dime.

The Mitchell Blueprint

After spending a lifetime selling suits and socks and stockings alongside Mom and Dad (God rest their souls); my brother, Bill; my wife, Linda; and our four sons and three nephews, I’ve recognized that there are five broad principles that guide us in hugging our people:

To be nice to them, to trust them, to instill pride in them, to include them and to generously recognize them.

These are sound and solid principles and they produce remarkable results.

The key is personalization delivered positively with passion. Once you have that magical connection on a personal level, the rest is just focusing with great discipline on consistency and execution and delivery.

Hug Your People contains real stories about real people — a common-sense book, based on examples of associates being nice to one another, trusting one another, feeling pride in their environment and the people they work with, being included, and getting recognized.

It’s worked for us — across three generations and 50 years — and it’ll work for you.

And work will never, ever seem like it’s work again.

More Wisdom From Jack Mitchell

In November 2006, Jack Mitchell appeared in INSTORE’S “Super Sellers” — comprised of best-selling salespeople in various retail categories. Here are a few memorable thoughts he shared:

  • Making a profit is secondary to making the customer feel at home in the store. We’ve always asked customers for input, from the very beginning.
  • You can’t just interrogate your customers — it takes time to get all their information. The customer is your friend; that’s the mindset you have to have. To them, their grandson scoring a goal in his soccer game yesterday is far more important than buying a $5,000 suit. So you talk about that first. Then you find out what they like to wear, what do they need it for, and so on.
  • After the first 250 customers, you can’t remember everything about everybody. In our store, our customer screen shows three divisions: personal, business, and family. Then we fill each division up with as much information as possible. That way, when they come in, you can bring up the screen and remember whether this person plays golf or tennis, is he married, did he write a book? You kid them about these things and ask questions. Pretty soon you become friends.
  • Stay in touch with your customers. Send them a birthday card. It means a lot. We also do that with our associates — we send them a card on their birthday, and also on the date of their anniversary with the store.
  • I’ve never found that the relationship I have with a customer caused them to expect a special deal. But if they did, I’d have to say, “Gee, we’ll give you the very best service, but we don’t discount.” People accept that. I’m sure we lose some customers, but most know that our price is never higher than that of other merchants.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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