Let me tell you about Ayla Azad, a chiropractor practicing in Ajax, Ontario. She should be in the Customer Service Hall of Fame. But before we get to why she should be in the Customer Service Hall of Fame, we have to go back to Ayla having a bad day.

It was wet and snowy, that morning. That wet snow resulted in brutally slow traffic. The traffic jam took Ayla off schedule, so she was running late. And because she was running late – Ayla had to sit at the back of the Church for the funeral service for one of her patients.

The elderly lady who passed away had been a patient for years. And Ayla wanted to attend the funeral to pay her respects, and express her condolences to the family.

There is a special quality to the unpleasantness of being late for an event at a place of worship – be it a regular religious service, a wedding, or in this case, a funeral. All you want is a cloak of invisibility as you try, as quietly as possible, to not disrupt the ceremonies or draw attention yourself and your own tardiness.

So, Ayla settled in to a vacant pew at the very back of the church, listening to the Minister as he shared stories of the deceased.

And then, once Ayla had settled in and was listening to all the kind words, the Minister continued: “… there is another person the family asked me to acknowledge, who had been especially helpful and special to their mother.”

He paused, and then went on: “And that was Ayla Azad, her chiropractor. Ayla … might you be here with us today?”

So, you could hear the creaking sound of all the pews, as everyone in the church moved around in their seats. And as the heads of the parishioners started turning from the front to the back of the church, Ayla – slowly and sheepishly – started raising her hand, smiling shyly as she did.

The Minister continued: “The family wanted me to share that while Ayla helped their mother with her back pain, there was another reason why she had such a warm place in her heart for Ayla.”

“It was because Ayla tied their mother’s shoes at the end of each appointment.”

That small gesture – helping someone by tying their shoes – clearly meant a lot.

This lady had severe back pain, which made bending down very difficult for her. For Ayla, tying her patient’s shoes was such a small thing, but one that had a tremendously positive impact.

“Tying people’s shoes” is not taught as a core skill at chiropractic college. It is not in a chiropractor’s job description. But that small gesture, more than any technical skill, is what was noticed and appreciated.

 

Understand those Little Things that Truly Matter to Your Customers.

Leaders and organizations can learn from this. What matters to clients and customers isn’t always what you do, but how you do it. Do you show empathy? Do you put a little bow on the wrapping for the gift? Do you do things that might seem below you – like taking the notes in a planning session, cleaning off the dishes from the boardroom table after a client meeting, or tying a patient’s shoes? These small, relatively easy actions have tremendous symbolic impact. They get noticed, and they are remembered.

If you build cars, offer chiropractic services, or run a restaurant, then the basic assumption is that your cars are safe, spinal care skills are current, or food is fresh and tastes good. Delivering what you’re supposed to is just the price of market entry.

It’s the psychological benefits – like tying someone’s shoes – that matter.

Delivering psychological benefits consistently means building an organizational culture where employees get good at reading people, and figuring out what really matters to them. And – based on that deeper insight – doing things that say “I see you.” Actions that demonstrate that you are engaged with customers, and understand their deeper needs and aspirations.

 

See the Uniqueness

We love to categorize groups of people into segments. Millennials. Baby boomers. Harley-Davidson riders.

Categorizing reduces the complexity of the universe. Yet it reduces our ability to deliver on what matters to a unique individual. Reducing the likelihood of doing those small things that have a tremendous impact.

Because some Harley Davidson riders like listening to soft rock from the ‘80s. And others travel preference is European museums that specialize in pre-Renaissance Italian paintings.

So ask yourself, and challenge people within your organization, to find what ‘tying someone’s shoes’ is for you, and for your customers. Establish a culture where employees are able to intuitively identify those small things that have a tremendously positive impact. Not only will results improve, but you will help build a more positive overall environment in which to come to work each day.

 

By: Hugh MacPhie