Company culture is imperative. If everyone isn’t on the same page or feeling the good vibes or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, your customers will be the first to notice. Nobody has time for that. Customers have their own trauma and drama at home. Make your business a safe place to let the fun flow.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Hampton.
Mary Hampton is the founder of HookandHunt.com, an ecommerce shop that sells new, name brand merchandise at 50% off. The unique site is the nation’s best kept secret for highly sought-after technology, school supplies, home essentials, furniture, camping gear, interior design décor, lawn equipment and sporting gear. Hampton is a customer service connoisseur who turned this brick-and-mortar concept into an online one stop shop during the pandemic.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I own a construction company and when we went on lockdown, I was so worried about my business suffering because we weren’t able to go into a client’s home. I knew I needed to start an online business sooner rather than later. The uncertainty of the pandemic combined with massive job losses and struggling families really became the perfect storm for me to launch HookandHunt.com, an ecommerce website that offers new, name brand items at a discounted price. When the holidays rolled around, we became a go-to site and I can honestly say all of our customers are repeat buyers. Once they discover that they can purchase the same items offered at big box sites for half the price, they’re hooked! The concept really is to offer larger than life deals on a site that has a homegrown, authentic feel. HookandHunt.com is easy to use, pretty to look at and doesn’t push pop-ups on our shoppers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take away’ you learned from that?
The most important thing to understand is that my background is not in eCommerce or retail, so you can only imagine what a learning curve I had in starting a business from scratch in an industry I knew nothing about. One of the major mistakes I learned the hard way is you need to have a system for everything! In the beginning, I didn’t have a system for ordering, inventory, pickups or pretty much anything. I ran before I walked and learned that having a plan is great but in order to actually implement a plan, you need a system for each step. This may very well fall in the ‘Captain Obvious’ category, but when you’re up to your eyeballs in the beginning launch stages, simple steps can be overlooked. Luckily, our customers were extremely patient with us when it came to their orders the first couple of months and for that I’m truly grateful. The biggest lesson for me was to just be real and honest with our customers about how HookandHunt.com was new to the scene, that we were eager to get it “right” and were thankful to receive constructive feedback to ensure they were happy with their orders.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The thing I’ve learned about owning a business and doing business is you can’t do it alone. There are several areas where my skills aren’t exactly up to par, but I surround myself and hire people with skillsets that will help my businesses thrive. Not only that, but they love to do the things that I don’t. My team and the village of people I have in my life to lean on and learn from are mandatory. I believed in Hookandhunt.com from the very start. I never questioned whether or not it would work, but I did know that if it turned out to be a success it wasn’t going to be just from my efforts. It’d be a culmination of hard work from those who are part of my team.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Customers are my life! Knowing the tiniest details will make the most impact. When we’re filling orders, my staff knows to take into consideration the person who’ll be receiving the shipment and what it’s going to be like for them to open their box of goodies. We actually follow really strict steps for each individual order including using custom, branded Hook & Hunt gift boxes and tissue paper. Also, the tape that binds everything together has our company’s motto printed on it which is “Raining Sunshine” just to spread an extra bit of joy. The motto was born to remind you that people are great when things seem great, but who you are when things aren’t going as planned is what matters. As a company, we want our customers to feel understood, heard and appreciated for shopping with us.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
It’s impact. I’m not under the notion that the customer is ALWAYS right, but it’s my job to listen, hear what they are saying and understand how they actually feel. This is especially true if something as simple as placing an order doesn’t go as planned. As an online store we set the expectation that they will receive what they put in their cart and purchase. If a mistake occurs, it’s one thing to be frustrated as a customer, but it’s another thing to feel like they’re not being heard. As a business owner I can’t survive without the majority of my clients repeating orders, so I want to have a website space that they are excited to buy from over and over again. Customers know who’s authentic and who really cares. I take pride in doing the right thing! Customer service is really just that. Doing the right thing by your clients.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Yes. 100%. However, I think it’s being able to connect more so than just customer service. The overall feeling and culture of the company really comes into play, now more than ever. People want to do business with companies they like and actually connect with or those that inspire them.
Convenience is definitely a component, but if a customer can support local or help a small business, clients are more inclined nowadays to give neighborhood shops a push.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Of course!!! My favorite part of what we do is providing the WOW. We had a customer call and ask for some information on socks he was looking for. We’d put them on special — 5 pairs for 25 dollars. Please note I’m only giving the price for perspective. Additionally, the sale was intended to be a ‘grab bag’ deal. So, you get what you get.
I took his call, got the info he was specifically asking for, scoured the warehouse for the specific brand and color of socks he wanted and called him back with the good news — we had what he was looking for. He ordered that one bag of socks and spent 25 dollars. Two days later we received five additional orders from him worth hundreds of dollars from other products. He ended up leaving a note that said, “Great job for going above and beyond for me HookandHunt.com”. As of today, our superstar client has spent well over 2,500 dollars and it’s all because I all because I spent that extra time finding exactly what he wanted.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
The ripple is that not only did our superstar client buy more merchandise, but he tells everyone about us like a good movie or series he’s been watching!
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Company culture is imperative. If everyone isn’t on the same page or feeling the good vibes or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, your customers will be the first to notice. Nobody has time for that. Customers have their own trauma and drama at home. Make your business a safe place to let the fun flow.
- Have passion and love for what you are doing. You can’t fake it till you make it when it comes to customer service. People will read you like a book. So, enjoy turning transactions into relationships. You might end up being the one who benefits from the effort more — whether it’s emotionally or financially.
- Not everyone is going to love you or your business or what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s OK. You will never make everyone happy, so stop worrying about. Focus on the endgame which is making money and building clientele.
- Be bold. Feel confident enough in your own skin to be the boss, to make executive decisions and to identify what works for your brand and what doesn’t.
- Be HONEST! I mentioned before that when HookandHunt.com was just getting off the ground, I’d tell customers who called with a problem that we were new, but we were trying to get it right. People will receive you better when you admit your mistakes and are completely transparent, even if it makes you feel vulnerable. Get over it.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Tell everyone you know. Sharing a story about their experience rather than just the deal they got, speaks measures. We want our clients and customers to feel comfortable reaching out, tagging us on social and even calling us to say thank you!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be called Raining Sunshine!!!! Life is hard and its not always a walk in the park. There are days, even weeks sometimes, where it feels like it’s pouring rain and we have a black cloud over us, but with rain always comes sunshine. Life is full of ups and downs but there is always, always so much to be grateful for. I would want to impact others to know that their worst day is someone’s best! What better movement than to impact people to embrace the day and be thankful for every second we have on this Earth?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!