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Can We Hug? Six Tips for Getting Customers to Show You Love

by Loren McDonald  |  
October 10, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to increase customer engagement and word-of-mouth
  • Six steps to getting customers to "hug" you

I'm a hugger. I'm not sure when I became a card-carrying hugger, but as a teen I spent a lot of time at my buddy's house with his Portuguese family and relatives, who treated me like another son. They always had that huggy thing going on, and it must have rubbed off.

Hugging has a place in marketing, too, at least in a virtual, figurative sense. I thought about that on a recent flight home from London, while reading Gary Vaynerchuk's book The Thank You Economy and thinking deeply about customer relationships and Gary's mantra of listening, engaging, and taking care of all customers.

That flight, and what followed, helped me understand how hugging your customers can be an effective marketing strategy under the right circumstances. Stay with me through the following anecdote, and you might agree.

To Hug or Not to Hug?

I sat next to a British woman who works in Google's London office. For the next 9.5 hours, when we weren't watching movies, reading, working, or listening to tunes, she and I discussed work, European privacy issues, travel, relationships, movies, America, and my passion for English rock music. We had connected and were enjoying conversational give-and-take even though we had just met. Each of us also could sense when the other wanted to disconnect for a while.

Once we landed at San Francisco International Airport and were on our way to US Customs, I wondered whether she would be OK with a little goodbye hug after sharing so much on a 5,000-mile flight.

To my surprise, she offered a hug first as we moved toward our different customs lines. To me, the gesture signified that after several hours learning about and sharing with each other, she was comfortable enough to express her feelings with a public hug.

Have You Hugged Your Customers Today?

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Loren McDonald is vice-president of industry relations at Silverpop, an email service provider for B2C marketing initiatives and B2B lead-management processes. Reach him via

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  • by Clelia Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    we all need a hug nowdays :D

  • by Kenton Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    I'm sorry, I don't find this very useful.

  • by Loren McDonald Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    Thanks for the feedback Kenton. Would love to hear your suggestions on how I could have made the article more useful to you.



  • by Lou Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    I am a huge proponent for customer engagement. Customers are the very reason we exist & the cost to retain them is usually very low when compared to acquiring new ones. 'Hugs'....touch points are extremely effective and often cost just a little of your time.
    Another effective touch point is the 'I'm Sorry' hug when something has not gone right or maybe terribly wrong for the customer. We, as a society, are very forgiving and most cusomers just want to know that they are valued. In fact, the louder they are, the easier they are to 'save' I find. If, in fact, they didn't care, they would just disapear and you would never hear from them again....until you realized they were gone and then it might be too late as they've gone to a competitor or have realized they can live without you. A good & meaningful 'hug' can be priceless.
    I often use the phrase: "You have a friend at the Commercial Appeal" and every time I say it....... I MEAN IT. 8-)
    a yankee in Memphis

  • by Loren McDonald Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    Lou - thanks for your comments and a really great point. As you say, often times customers that have a bad experience can become your biggest advocates if you resolve the situation well.

    A few years ago British Airways gave my seat away for a flight from London to SFO. I was not happy as you would expect. But they were very courteous and put me on a later flight in Business Class (you know those pods), access to the first class lounge and a nice chunk of cash.

    I quickly forgot that they gave my seat away and was able to get a presentation done on the long flight home - that I couldn't have done in coach.

    So yes, hugging your unhappy customers can sometimes create very powerful advocates.

  • by Lou Lambert Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    I totally agree about advocacy Loren........ & the effect that it can create, good & bad, with the very viral nature of 'word of mouth'.

    I remember when I first came to Memphis some 5+ years ago.
    We were having system issues at the time and a very popular radio station started having problems with the delivery of their newspaper....& further started bashing us pretty heavily on air. It also happened to be the station that our publisher listened to on the way to work. He came in particularly upset one morning & I happened to be the first person he saw. He told me to FIX IT! (but, as I remember, it was phrased quite differently) Anyway, not only did I get to the bottom of it, I became somewhat of a folk To this day, I am still known as Philly Lou, on air, to Drake & Zeke - 98.1. How about the viral nature of that?
    After which the publisher insisted I handle all the 'tuff ones'.....which again, I maintain are not that tuff at all when people care & are passionate about their product or service!
    (Turns out that another DJ was taking the paper thinking it was his. So not only did we sell them another subscription, I also got them to advertise with us 8-)

    I posted your article & link on my LinkedIn page. Good Stuff!

    a yankee in Memphis

  • by Loren McDonald Mon Oct 10, 2011 via web

    Thanks for the great story Lou (Lambert). You raise another really important angel to this is that very often when a customer is unhappy with your product or service it is due to their own user error, mistake, unrealistic expectations, etc.

    So getting to the bottom of it speedily and in a professional manner - usually creates a situation where the customer will do a public thanks and mea culpa. So your company looks good all around. And now they feel a bit indebted to you and willing to go to bat for you.

    Cheers Philly Lou!

  • by Kietcao Tue Oct 11, 2011 via mobile

    Thanks for your hugging advices. If we all care for the others life will be better. I appreciates for the care offering from your talk but I wonder could 24 hs a day we have could could done that for all followers.

  • by TranNg Sat Oct 15, 2011 via web

    Thanks for this! It is very useful information, which makes me review my products. Thanks again.

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