Reading time: 4 minutes
To boost community morale and local business, four of our city’s biggest retail chains decided to hold a Best Customer Service Competition.
They opened it to anyone who worked in Customer Service, but each of the four chains expected one of their own staff to win. In fact, the general managers of each chain demanded that one of their own must win. Unfortunately, the competition struck difficulties halfway through; a mini scandal broke out.
Each competitor had to post a 60-second video of themselves on YouTube. Then, it was a matter of simply counting the Likes. The person with the most Likes would win.
When the scandal broke, the city mayor picked up on the story, then one of the local TV stations ran with it.
Now, meet Edana. She is something special. Strong, ultra-sensitive, and worldly, Edana lost her mom and dad when she was in elementary school. She was raised in the wise, loving arms of her grandma and grandpa. Now, they were gone, too. But, Edana was ready for anything the world might throw at her. It threw a curveball.
She was at the center of this little local storm. She was a warm, vibrant woman who had been the heart and soul of customer relations for her employer, a big janitorial supplies firm. She loved her job. And, she was extremely good at it.
You see, Edana oozed empathy. It was a God-given gift. She felt what you and everyone else felt. She couldn’t help it. She’d been that way all her life.
The Customer Service Competition drew her attention. She talked the sales manager and the marketing manager into helping her make a YouTube post. In the video, they introduced themselves, mentioned their job titles, then pretended to finish writing a new, customer service policy.
They handed the document to Edana and walked away, congratulating each other.
Edana silently read a few lines, shaking her head. She tossed the document to the floor and, looking directly into the iPhone’s camera lens, she said: “Friends, customer service is simple. First, I love the people I work with. Second, I love helping our customers who keep our buildings clean and safe. They are our friends. Third, the pay is good. Like I said. Customer service is simple. Amen.”
When the video was posted, the YouTube subscribers didn’t need to be told to smack the “Like” button. Thousands in the city joined in. They liked her message and they loved her delivery. She’d hit a nerve.
That was when the mayor’s office contacted the general manager of Edana’s janitorial supplies firm. Edana heard about the call from the GM’s secretary. There were no details. Just that the mayor was on the case.
Edana started to worry. Maybe her job was in jeopardy. She was sure she was in some sort of trouble. Then, things got worse.
A day or two later, Edana’s phone rang. A guy gave his name and said he was calling from the mayor’s office. The mayor would like to talk to her. Would tomorrow morning at 9:15 be convenient? Did she need any special assistance?
When she was home that evening, Edana did need assistance, but the straight shot of bourbon she swallowed seemed to offer enough support to get her to the morning. But, no more than that.
Edana had always been confident and empathic but now she trembled slightly, waiting there in the mayor’s outer office. Her hands gripped each other so tightly they hurt.
The mayor’s assistant invited Edana into the massive inner office, but the meeting turned into a strange affair. The mayor wasn’t angry. She seemed to be curious. The assistant asked her questions like “Do you usually vote in local elections?” and “Have you ever dealt with the media before?” The mayor smiled in a kindly way as she said: “Would you say you are a political person?” and “Do you currently support any community projects?”
Edana stumbled through her answers, trying always to tell the truth and to keep her meaning simple and clear. In a flash, the meeting was over. The mayor thanked her and said goodbye.
A day or so later, Edana’s general manager got an email from the state-wide Sales Management Federation. Apparently, they didn’t like Edana’s video. They wanted it taken down.
Then, the State Marketing Board made a public announcement, promoted in the media, that her video had mocked all the good people who worked in marketing.
Edana was horrified.
But, that evening, her mood abruptly changed. After her now nightly shot of bourbon, a journalist with a camera crew turned up at her front door asking questions. For Edana, enough was enough.
Staring into the bright light, she said: “Friends, I have not been attacking anyone. Those two guys in the video are our marketing manager and sales manager. We made the video for a laugh. People liked it. End of story. Amen.”
Two days later, the city’s main newspaper ran an editorial supporting Edana. It condemned the Sales Management Federation and the State Marketing Board for “… causing trouble to big note themselves. Edana is real. People like her and they like her message. Amen.”
After a while, the trouble died down. Remarkably, a customer service manager in one of the four big retail chains posted a new video that got far more Likes than Edana. In the end, he won the competition.
Edana was relieved. Still feeling battered and bruised, she settled back into her job. Those around her were kind and supportive.
The mini scandal was forgotten until, eight months later, when the mayor suddenly appointed Edana as the city’s citizen-ambassador for consumer affairs. It was just a PR gimmick. Edana attended events staged by the mayor and other city officials. It took no more than three hours a week.
Then, Edana’s face started appearing on the sides of buses that circled downtown. Underneath were the words: “Friends for life. Amen.”
Now, people are saying she’ll be running for mayor sometime soon. I’m ready to bet on the result. For Edana, campaigning will be easy. She’s got a God-given gift. She’s been that way all her life. Her parents and grandparents would be so proud.
Create empathy every time.
What you’ll know about incoming text messages or emails.
Their emotions, underlying beliefs, level of certainty, focus of attention, and sincerity. And, how to reach out to them empathically.