How to Virtually Hug Your Visitors: The Principles of Passionate Customer Service

How to Virtually Hug Your Visitors: The Principles of Passionate Customer Service

Hugging your visitor is a metaphor for delivering exceptional customer service. Synonymous with the word exceptional include rare, extraordinary, excellent and superior. No matter what industry or service you're in, your customers all want the same thing. An enjoyable experience during which their needs and concerns are your number one priority.

Inspired by Jack Mitchells, Hug Your Customers: Love The Results a customer-centric approach is the best way to guarantee happy customers and visitors who will return again and again. Better still, your customers become ambassadors for your brand, shouting your praises from the rooftop.

But how do you achieve this glowing praise from happy customers and visitors to your business and destination? It's simple: with hugs!

We're not saying you should go out and physically embrace every visitor you see with a hug. We're talking about metaphorical hugs. When you think about how to structure your business or service and how to treat your customers, think about how to make them feel safe and happy—like a good hug would!

In the end, we are only as good as our reputation - and we are only as profitable as the new and repeat customers we can attract. To aid the successful growth of your organisation, focus on these three key things is a must:

  1. Keeping your current customers
  2. Gaining repeat customers
  3. Attracting new customers via an excellent off and online reputation, referral or word of mouth.

What Is A Customer-Centric Approach?

A customer-centric approach puts the customer in the driver's seat. It strives to make the visitor experience easy, enjoyable, and rewarding. It's all about them.

It's also all about putting yourself in your customer's shoes to understand their experience and how to improve it. The hug comes in when you implement strategies and initiatives that go above and beyond to make your customer happy that they made the right decision choosing you.

In a tourism sense, hugging your customers is about showering the most important people in your business with love and attention and going that extra mile to make them feel special. When you do this, you lay the groundwork for a fruitful, long-term relationship with every customer.

How To Hug Your Customers

Depending on your industry, there are many different ways you can show your customers that you care. Your hugging initiatives can be as simple as any of the following actions:

·      Eye contact and a warm smile

·      Remembering details about the customer and their family

·      A handwritten letter to express gratitude

·      A personalised Tweet

Disney inspires another great customer service model that accurately depicts the ingredients needed to create an exceptional customer service experience.

A remarkable expression of the details required in growing a business by making the connection with the customer your focal point, The Experience, by Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church, delves into the Disney-inspired principals of customer service excellence.

iCARE Principle

Having experienced the 'Disney' way, the I. C.A.R.E principles and the "Disney-inspired" Non-Negotiables for each principle that every excellent brand must deliver include resonated deeply. They include Impression, Connection, Attitude, Response, and Exceptionals.


Every customer has an impression of every encounter experienced and can describe and file each of these Impressions under one of three categories: positive, negative or neutral. Although neutral might seem like the absence of an Impression being made, it is just as critical as a positive or a negative. It is MEH! It says the company did nothing to distinguish its service or itself from competitors. Being average never inspired anyone.


Relationships are the epicentre of all meaningful and long term product or service initiatives. Every customer in any industry wants to feel important and to be met by friendly staff who make them feel welcome. Converting clients and customers from consumers to ambassadors hinges on the pivotal point of creating an emotional and personal connection between contact and the relationship.


Everything you think, say and ultimately do. Your attitude is the lens through which you see the world and the external expression of internal feelings. If you could think of one thing that separates Disney from every other theme park, an organisation, in the world, it would be their attitude. Although your entire customer service experience starts with first impressions for the consumer, for those in charge of delivering the experience, the most important ingredient is the attitude in the individual as well as the collective.


The response is the hallmark of customer service and the exceptional experience. If your reaction time, tone, and talent do not match with every other aspect of an excellent experience, everything can be undone very quickly. It can take a lot of effort to build a relationship with a customer, but only one negative response to destroy it.


Exceptional service cannot occur without outstanding individuals as a collective to raise the bar to establish expectations of excellence. Time and time again, research tells us that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

Exceptional employees (and outstanding companies) that are happier and more fulfilled provide much better service and are far more successful at satisfying customers.

M.M.F.I. Principal

More gold from Loeffler and Church is the M.M.F.I. Principle. Similar to W.I.I.F.M (What's In It For Me) everyone you know is wearing an M.M.F.I. sign around their neck. Albeit it is invisible some signs are minimal, some are normal, and others enormous with four letters on them: M.M.F.I. Every day through actions and words, they are telling you M.M.F.I. or Make Me Feel Important. In other words, "What are you doing to make me feel special, valued and needed?"

Every person wants to feel important because everyone IS important. I have found over the years the M.M.F.I. principal is just as relevant for your people, partners and suppliers as it is for your customers.

The Benefits of Hugging Your Customers

Hugs are mutually beneficial—they make both parties happier! Having a customer-centric approach to your business doesn't only help the visitor or customer; it helps grow your organisation.

One of the benefits of continually putting yourself in your customer's shoes in order to improve their experience is that your organisation is always trying to be the best it can be. These days, there's so much customer data that it's possible to find out exactly what your customer wants. If you're doing the research and taking steps to improve, your business will continue to provide better and better services and products. When you put the customer first and always strive to be better, customer satisfaction increases. After all, happier customers are returning customers and returning customers become ambassadors.

The Principles of Passionate Customer Servicing

Creating a Hugging Culture

Creating a hugging culture begins with customer-centric hiring. If you want to have your customers at the heart of your organisation truly, every single person involved needs to be on board. That means that when you are hiring team members, you need to hire people who understand and are enthusiastic about hugging!

Customer satisfaction should be one of your business' values, and everyone in your organisation should know and support this.

It's also essential to make sure everyone in your organisation interacts with customers somewhat regularly. A hugging culture is created when there is a genuine interest in and concern for customers' happiness. To foster this, it helps to have regular customer contact to establish relationships. This will ingrain customer happiness as an essential value for every person involved in your company.

How Data Helps You Hug

These days, we have data for almost everything. From how many people visit your website, to what they Google to find you, technology can tell us so many things about customers. And best of all, many of these analytics are free and available to you. All you need to do is put the time into finding these insights, understanding what they mean, and acting on them in meaningful ways.

One way to take advantage of technology to better hug your customers is through surveys or interviewing your customers.

Technology makes it easy to email or text surveys to anyone who comes in contact with your business or website. Ask them to take a minute and give you feedback and some demographic information. Then, use this to recognise what is working and how you can improve.

Social Media Hugs

Technology doesn't only give us data to help us hug our customers better. It also can be the vehicle for the hug! Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to interact with your customers on a much more personal level than you used to be able to.

Create profiles on these platforms and then monitor them so you can answer customer's questions and concerns. Give out timely information like seasonal hours or special events.

It's also a space to gather valuable feedback. People go to social media to vent about their frustrations with a brand or gush about their fantastic experience with a company. Monitor this feedback and use it to improve. It also helps to reach out to customers—whether they are happy or discontent with your service—and either thanking them for their kind words or work to resolve the issue.

Going above and beyond on social media to give your customers a virtual hug, and it can go a long way to delivering continual and consistent happiness!

Huggable Websites

The first step in ensuring you have developed a customer-centric website is much the same as everything else that centres around the customer experience. Make it all about them! If you manage to get it right, a website designed for your customers will speak their language, solve their problems, and quickly become their main stop when it comes to finding their ideal solution. Further to this, some other tips for creating a huggable website include:

1. Choose a modern website platform.

The first impression on your website is just as important as the first impression of you, your product, venue or service. Another very important element of maintaining a website is your customer's ability to easily finding it and when they find you, giving them a friendly place to land. That means starting with good search engine optimisation (SEO) and a visually appealing site. Fortunately, the platform you choose to build your website can be a massive help with both.

2. Do a Thorough Keyword Research

Another step in your customer's shoes is using the right keywords or the search terms used by THEM on search engines. You can use several tools for this purpose such as: Google AdWords: Keyword Planner, KW Finder, SEMrush, Ahrefs, MOZ and LongTailPro to name a few.

If you want to read more about SEO basics, you can do so here, SEO for Beginners What Search Engine Optimisation Is and How It Works.

3. Hug Them with Content

Unfortunately knowing your keywords is not enough. The power of having a well-optimised website is being able to use them. Not just on your home page but cleverly sprinkling your keywords regularly via the content posted on your website.

Important to ensure that you use keywords that are highly relevant to the products and services you offer and include a high search volume.

For instance, if your customers are searching for “things to do Melbourne” content has to exist on your website so that your prospects can easily reach your site. Including these in your blogs is one of the best ways to include a wide range of long-tail keywords within your website not to mention will go a long way to help you rank higher in the search engine ranking pages. If you will like to delve a little deeper, I wrote about this very topic in a recent blog titled Benefits of Regularly Posting Content to Your Website.

4. Make it easy for customers to reach you

This is not the time to make them work and hunt for your contact details. Provide lots of contact avenues, including email, phone, physical address (if you are a venue/attraction or sell through a shopfront), and add easy-to-find social icons so visitors can engage with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.

Particularly if some people are reluctant to purchase products and services over the Internet, especially if they are not familiar with your business, a customer-centric site allows you to overcome customer barriers by providing detailed information about your business and welcoming them to get in touch.

Ready to Start Hugging Your Customers?

When you put your customers first, it makes them happier and has a positive impact on the successful growth of your business. When your organisation is the best that it can be, it benefits everyone involved.

If you're ready to have a customer-centric approach but aren't sure where to begin, we are a call or email away to help deliver training and mentoring to assist you with your customer satisfaction initiatives through a hugging culture.

Despina Karatzias
Despina is a passionate digital marketer, social media maestro and tourism professional. She is a Certified Trainer, Tourism Hub Podcast host, qualified business coach, author and digital marketing professional with twenty years’ experience in the tourism industry. Despina is the very proud Chief Navigator of leading digital education platform for small business Navii Digital and Tourism Tribe. Outside of the training room, Despina loves planning adventures and above everything spending time with her family. Despina is a passionate advocate for growing small business through shared experiences because every business has a very special gift, YOU!

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