How Kindness Generates Customers

One of my favorite stories comes from an article I read by Bill Taylor on HBR.org, the website of Harvard Business Review, retelling the story of the story of Brandon Cook, from Wilton, New Hampshire, whose hospitalized grandmother admitted she desperately wished for a bowl of soup (her favorite clam chowder from Panera Bread). Unfortunately, granting this minor wish was impossible since at that time Panera only sold clam chowder on Fridays.

Ever the loyal grandson, Brandon took a shot and called a local Panera and spoke with Susanne Fortier, the store’s manager. Turns out she was happy to make clam chowder just for Brandon’s grandmother, and sent a box of cookies as a gift from the staff!

You can imagine what happened once Brandon and his grandmother took to social media to share their story and gratitude: 500,000-plus “likes” and more than 22,000 comments on Panera’s Facebook page. At the same time, Panera received what even the most clever advertising campaign cannot buy: a true sense of connection and appreciation from its worldwide customers.

Is this story an example of the power of social media and word of mouth? Yes, of course, but as Taylor posits, “…I see the reaction to Sue Fortier’s gesture as an example of some- thing else—the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars- and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.”

Kindness is what it means to be human and this book will help you carve out a path to translate your humanness into your business. The very human characteristics of kindness, rooted in our biological need to bond and to connect (and which lead to the Return on Kindness outlined in this book’s Introduction) are the focus of the rest of this book. We turn now to the first kindness characteristic of compassion and how specifically it impacts prospects, connection, and customers.

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