Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.
It also only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy… and it’s gone. Not only that, but lost connection can easily lead to lost business opportunity and often to lawsuits.
“Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong!”
It’s not my fault. I did my job. Tough luck.
“Architect, the floor is sagging, the beams were put in the wrong direction!”
I don’t care. There’s a three-year statute of limitations, and even then, it wasn’t my job to ensure that the work met the plans. I did my job!
“Airline, my two-year-old can’t sit in a row by herself, and the agent on the phone said you’d work it so we could sit together!”
It’s not my fault. If you don’t want to get on the plane, don’t get on the plane. I did my job!
In all three cases, there are significant barriers to magically fixing the problem. But that’s not where the breakdown is. It happened because a human decided to not care. Not care and not express anything that came close to caring.
A human being, perhaps intimidated by lawyers, or tired after a hard day, or the victim of a giant bureaucracy (all valid reasons) made the stupid decision not to care.
By not caring, by not expressing empathy, this individual denied themselves their own humanity. By putting up a brick wall, they isolate themselves. Not only do they destroy any hope for word of mouth, they heap disrespect on someone else. By working so hard to not engage (in the vain hope that this will somehow keep them clean), they end up in the mud, never again to receive the benefit of the doubt or the benefit that a little kindness can create!
What kind of day or week or career is that? To live in a bubble, keeping track only of individuals defeated or policies written or revenue generated?
It turns out that while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be heard and to be cared about. People want to feel like they matter and that their problems matter; even if you don’t have the power to fix everything.
Of course you should use these moments to reinforce connections and trust by word of mouth.
Of course you should realize that people like us get asked to recommend airlines and doctors and architects, but now, we will never ever recommend you to anyone, in fact, we’ll go out of our way to keep people from choosing you.
But the real reason you should extend yourself in these moments when it all falls apart is that this is how you measure yourself over time.
What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care? People will not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Remember you are in the people business not the insurance business, or the investment business or the anything-else business. Go serve, listen and care! That will lead to more success.