Last week I took two of my sons and my nephew to eat at a local fast-food chain to grab dinner after their baseball practice. While we were waiting on our food, we overheard a customer getting louder and louder as he vented his frustrations with the cashier for accidentally placing his to-go order on a tray instead of in a bag.
“I ordered this to go, and don’t you call me a liar!” he yelled with far more emotion than the mistake warranted. In a matter of seconds, the error was corrected; just in time for him to storm out of the restaurant.
Earlier that same day, my husband had texted me about his travel experiences. He was on a flight that was delayed due to maintenance issues which caused him and everyone else on the flight to miss their connections. He watched customers one by one snarl angry threats to the airline employees at the gate. My husband was amazed at the patience and calm demeanor with which the gate attendant rebooked every person’s connections despite the angry customer accusations.
Such scenarios seem to be popping up a lot more frequently these days. You have likely been caught up in one or more of them yourself. COVID-19 brought all kinds of new challenges to our economy, including an overall lack of workers and a supply chain crisis in nearly every industry.
While this is frustrating for the businesses, it’s equally frustrating for the customers who are waiting longer and longer for their desired product. It’s a really difficult time for businesses to score five stars in customer satisfaction. If you’re the consumer, you’re probably not giving out a lot of fives yourself these days.
It also seems that people’s emotional public outbursts are about more than just delays and mistakes. Fear and anxiety are a crippling byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic, and they seem to spread more easily than the virus itself. A recent Household Pulse Survey confirms that symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic rose from 36.4% to 41.5%, according to a report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.
Fortunately, there are many antidotes for anxiety; one being kindness.
Regardless of what industry or organization you are with, you are probably asking yourself the same questions we are at John Houston Homes. How can we shower our customers with kindness and show them we truly do care when frustrating delays happen outside of our control? And, how do we care internally for our employees who are having to navigate crisis after crisis with customers or clients?
If kindness is just as contagious as anxiety (or the virus), why not start intentional efforts internally? Frustrated employees will often frustrate customers. But loved employees will often love customers. So, what can you do to step up even more and show your employees extraordinary kindness?
Here are three ways to get started:
People want to know that their hard work is noticed and appreciated. During seasons when employees are giving “extra”, the appreciation should also seem “extra.” Do more than you would normally to show that you really notice. If you’re financially able, show them appreciation with a bonus. Nothing backs up your words like putting money where your mouth is.
Of course, appreciation can be shown in more ways than with just money. In our companies, the leaders have stepped up to host some appreciation lunches for our employees. Other departments have made goody bags for our customer-facing departments just to communicate, “We notice the tough job you have right now and we’re thankful for you.” Sometimes just a simple email or handwritten note of encouragement is all someone needs to keep going.
As heavy loads become heavier, people need others to help shoulder the burden. Organizations should be thinking of creative ways to help support the burdens employees face in the current economic climate.
In our monthly business updates presented by leadership to the entire company, leaders identify certain departments that will face heavy loads in the coming months to achieve company goals. Our COO has been challenging all employees to do what they can to help serve these departments and make their weight lighter. Many of our employees have taken this to heart.
One of our sales managers told me how she had been meeting more frequently with customers, especially when they request to meet with the construction manager. She knows construction is swamped with end-of-year closings, and the current supply crisis creates an even greater challenge. She is doing her part to bear the load her partnering construction team has to carry in this season. When sharing the load becomes part of a company’s culture, then the much-needed support can be felt throughout the company.
Give them purpose.
A common question people ask themselves during stressful seasons is, “Why am I doing this?” Organizations need to be ready to answer that “why” with a life-giving purpose.
We know that “out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing, so we are constantly looking for ways to keep our mission in front of people. We have our brand vision printed on employee T-shirts. We have our brand personality printed on mouse pads for employees to look at every day.
We post stories on our internal company site about how our company is spreading kindness through our community and abroad through our many philanthropic efforts. We provide opportunities for employees to engage in community projects that shower kindness on those around us. People can give a lot more than they realize when there’s a compelling mission driving their work.
When our organizations provide appreciation, support and purpose for employees, we empower them to show extraordinary kindness to customers. They will have the courage needed to speak honestly with customers and help deliver difficult news with empathy and grace. They will go the second mile to serve the customers when unexpected delays and frustrations arise.
Our employees have been known to drive to a customer’s home for a signature just to speed up a process or move an entire day’s schedule around to get a customer’s brick delivered sooner. In one case, the customer had more concerns over money than time, and our loan officer halted an approved loan to start a new loan process that saved the customer more money.
One of my favorite stories from 2021 came out of our mortgage company. A customer had fallen victim to fraud and had wired a good chunk of their closing money to a fraudulent account. Although there was nothing our team could do about the fraudulent activity, our employees went the extra mile to ensure this customer was still able to close on her dream home in time. They rallied together with the bank, the realtor, and the title company to find extra credits and discounts and make up the amount she lost.
When it was all said and done, the customer closed on time and the bank restored much of the stolen money to her account. The customer informed our employees that she was so moved by their kindness that she decided to pay it forward. She took much of the money that had been restored and donated it to her local church.
Kindness goes a long way in soothing anxiety and fear. And it might even be more contagious. The more you show kindness to your employees, the more they will turn around and shower it upon their customers who will in turn shower it upon their neighbors. And don’t you think the world could use a little more of that?