On Going Above & Beyond

USA, California, HawthorneAs I read this blog post from the wonderful Danny Brown, I was reminded of an episode of ER from back in the Clooney days.

Bear with me here for just a second.

Old school fans of Must See TV might remember the episode. The entire day, the ER is bogged down, people are having the hardest day of their lives, the attractive doctors are getting frazzled, patients are complaining, and because of a myriad of complications, not a lot can be done. Then George Clooney gets up, grabs some first aid supplies, and starts patching up the dozens of people sitting in the waiting room. The other doctors join in, and the human spirit rises to the occasion: FINALLY, stuff is getting done despite the red tape because it’s just the right thing to do.

(Critics of this episode probably include malpractice lawyers and insurance folks who cry at scenes like this. Sorry, lawyers and insurance folks!)

In the case Danny points out, one company was too slow to respond to a problem, which gave another company a chance to save the day. Good on them, I say! But when we look inward at our day-to-day business, and we look for opportunities to save the day, we are often beset (sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically) by our own lawyers and insurance folks. Red tape is frustrating for everyone, both within and without the company. And saving the day isn’t easy when you have so many levels to go through before putting on your cape.

This is why I advocate small acts of kindness. Going above and beyond doesn’t have to be big. Going out of your way to make even the smallest gesture can make a difference to a consumer. If this sounds a lot like hippy kumbaya karma, it is. And I’m sorry I keep harping on this, but there’s really no other way to put it: you have to be nice. You have to be nice even if you don’t think the consumer deserves it, because you do not know whether or not the consumer deserves it. (Everyone has bad days, is what I’m saying, and if your first instinct is “that’s not my job,” maybe you should think about getting a different job. Because we’re professionals, and we’re here to help. In my overblown, utopian opinion.)

Because we all love lists, here’s a list of small acts of kindness that your brand can do for little or no money that may make someone’s day:

1. Retweet someone who doesn’t have a million followers, whose blog isn’t the top rated on Technorati, simply because their content was good.

2. #FollowFriday someone for about the same reason.

3. If a customer has issues with your product, even if your product is not at fault, offer to help. I was once approached by someone who had bought one of my assigned books and didn’t like it. It happens, but it’s also a chance to do something better than say, “Oh, tough luck.” I gave her another one of my books, one I thought she would like. And guess what? She liked it so much that she bought the other books in the series. Yeah, I lost a book, but I sold a bunch more. And if she didn’t like the new book, that would have been a net loss, but I had to try.

4. Commenting on blog posts about your brand. Monitoring is cool and all, but actually taking the 2 seconds to leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “thanks for the feedback” goes a long way. You can’t do it for every blog post if you’re a huge company, but when you can it lets the blogger know they’re on your radar and you care about their opinions.

5. Just talk. Not as part of a promotion, not as a way to get consumer data, not with any agenda in mind other than to talk. Very serious businesspeople might balk at this as a waste of time, and for people who feel that way, well, you must not have ever done it. Because if you have, then you would realize that just talking to your customers is the only way to make sure that those future promotions, data collections, and other agendas are successful.