Do you ever counter certain types of people in life that give you a new perspective on something – whether it be a lifestyle, attitude, opinion, etc.? Yesterday, I had a very unique encounter with an older man who appeared homeless and fishing on one of the Charles River docks in Boston.
It was about 5pm and I had only sat down by the dock to enjoy the evening sunlight on the river for about ten minutes when this man walked up to me. Naturally, when a stranger walks up to me I tend to tense up, not knowing their intentions. However, this man was looking for something very unique.
I found out afterwards that he spoke only Russian so he could not communicate with me. This man walked up to me, handing me two plastic cups and making a water-scooping motion to me with his hands. After a second, I understood he wanted me to fill these cups with river water for him because he could not bend down to do so himself. He nodded to me and went back to his fishing area. I watched and saw him take out some bread rolls, break them up into smaller pieces, and soak them in the cup of water. I then realized he was using this wet bread as bait for his fishing pole.
Not even five minutes after he first approached me, he came back over. In his hand were three candies. He was giving me candy in return for assisting him with getting water. All he could communicate to me was “Russian candy”. Sure enough, when I looked at them, the wrapper had Russian wording on it. I thanked him, he nodded, and went back to his area.
At that point I thought to myself, “Wow, just by me doing something so seemingly minuscule for this man, he was courteous enough to pay it forward by giving me a treat.”
This made me think.
You never know what others need in life, and how much a small act like filling up water means to them. I started to think about how this relates to marketing and customer service. During our busy everyday lives, we do and receive small acts of kindness, not really thinking twice about it. Other times, we are treated rudely and/or ignored – many times by bad customer representatives. On multiple occasions, I’ve experienced this with both a bank and cable company (not naming names – it’s beyond the point).
However, what if more encounters with businesses, clients, partners, etc. were as genuine as my prior encounter? What if everyone paid it forward? Small acts of appreciation can mean the world to someone.
Some business example of paying it forward are:
- Sending a personal thank-you email or even a gift card to a valued customer that has either been a good reference, blogged favorably about you, or has stayed loyal through ups and downs in the company’s lifetime. While they may just be great customers because they truly enjoy your product or service, it never hurts to show them it matters to you.
- Creating a special product feature that a specific customer requests. While it may gain you little to no revenue, if it is a fairly simple and quick feature to roll out, it will mean a lot to that customer. It (1.) Shows you truly care about the needs of your customers and (2.) Demonstrates that you take in customer feedback. If a business went out of their way to do this for me and the feature simplified my daily life, I would probably be a forever-loyal customer.
- Giving a valued customer some press exposure. I first was impressed by the idea of doing this when talking with a friend who spoke to a reporter regarding an awesome customer’s business. My friend was speaking to them not for the intent to get his business exposure, but to highlight a customer. Since the customer was running a small business, this press exposure was huge for them. I’ve since spoken to many other people who do the same thing and I have done it myself as well.