The Role of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ in Customer Experience

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Whilst the concept of random kindness as been around forever, there seems to be some momentum gathering around its application to CX. So let’s start with a practical definition of what a ‘Random Act of Kindness’ is, because how they’re used in a business context isn’t quite what the term might imply!

Random – actually very few are truly random, but more typically either carefully targeted (for our best customers, newest customers and so on) or in response to a situation (we’ve screwed up, we need to do something)

Act of Kindness – this is most often delivered as a ‘thoughtful’ or ‘appropriate’ act, often linked to an individual customer circumstance. An example might be where if a customer’s delivery arrived late, the provider might upgrade their next 3 orders to express delivery, to demonstrate care.

These definitions start to point the way to a few guidelines for how these Acts can be conducted:

  • The element of surprise – acts of kindness are best received when they are not expected. Hyatt Hotels Gold Passport guests might find the hotel picking up their bar tab every now and then, or treating their family to breakfast. But they don’t do it every time, or make it a fixed benefit of membership, as that would normalise the act. It would no longer feel special, but instead become expected, and integrated into the typical experience.
  • Show compassion – one of the risks of using acts of kindness is that they can all too easily feel like a marketing stunt. Protect against this by ensuring that the act is “about you, not us”. A good example is how US airline Jet Blue dealt with a long weather delay to an evening flight home by offering all passengers free movies, regardless of class of travel. It was recognition that, even though they couldn’t fix the weather, the airline could do everything possible to put relaxation and even a smile back into the journey. The mood on the flight took an immediate upswing.

  • Link to your brand  – Biotherm, the skincare brand owned by L’Oreal, began reaching out to tired Twitter users and offering them free product samples of their Skin.Ergetic anti-fatigue range (see above). The idea was clearly promotional in nature, but that should not deflect from the aspect of ‘kindness’. The takeout was for Biotherm to seek out those in need that it was in a position to help. It’s also a case study of how these acts work just as comfortably in a digital environment.  Another case study of this is Edge Shaving Gel – an anti-irritation product that used Twitter to identify things that were irritating people (in general) and picking some at random that they could fix. This was a looser brand association, but successful nonetheless.

I’d emphasize that these are simply guidelines – it’s up to each brand to identify things that would be authentic to their own beliefs, goals and tone of communication.

From a customer experience perspective, random acts of kindness should not be the defining element of the overall experience. Instead, they should fit seamlessly with the character of a brand, which in itself makes them more distinctive and harder to copy.

Remember this is about kindness. Test this by asking, “Is my act looking for something in return?” If the answer is yes, you need to think again.

Finally, here’s another hotel brand example which illustrates how customer experience and acts of kindness can fit well together.

At a conference at the Sydney Harbour Marriott, one of the delegates tweeted that it was the afternoon slump and he needed ‘some wings’ (tag line for Red Bull). He used the hashtag of the conference and also the hotel. Within minutes, he received a tweet saying there was a Red Bull waiting for him at the concierge with his Twitter handle on it. There were no film crews, no song and dance, just a genuine gesture from the hotel. This delegate only had 100 or so followers, so the benefit to the hotel was minimal, but the sentiment spoke volumes. (Source: Kate vanderVoort)

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