In Crisis: Customer Service as Compassion

I had a post ready to publish today.  But, after a conversation I had last night, I thought it more important to share this story with you.  Forgive me in advance for my writing as this one is from the gut.

Assuming you didn’t see my tweets yesterday and today, I shared some information about the aftermath from the rainstorms in New England this week.  I grew up in Rhode Island and my family and many friends live there today.  As I have been getting more information, the extend of the devastation and impact on peoples’ lives is making my head spin and my heart break.  I’ve followed, like we have all, the tragic events in New Orleans, Haiti and other locations around the world.  But, I guess it’s true that tragedy doesn’t quite resonate until it happens to you.

This time, it did.  My parents, after 50 plus years in the only home they ever owned, were forced out due to rising flood waters.  The house can be saved, but they’re lives, in the form of photos, mementos and the various collection of stuff, has suffered a mortal blow.  I’m giving you this information just to set the stage to say “thank you” to the folks at Boston Market in Cranston.

As my family is trying to get our heads around what’s next, my father just wanted some chicken for dinner.  Hey, we’re pretty simple folks.  So, my sister went to pick it up for him, after carrying the burden of the past week and putting the family on her back as I am not local.  She walked into the store only to be told they were completely sold out.  At that, my sister finally broke down.  Seeing her in distress, the manager of the store immediately went to work to find a solution.  He did.  He found the food and delivered the order as requested and refused to accept payment.

Maybe we spend too much time talking about technology, strategy, process, training, employee profiling and data as the tools to understanding customers and delivering a superior customer experience.  Perhaps, we’re missing the point.  The burning desire to serve others; to provide an experience that connects with customers at a deep emotional level requires the service deliverer to give a part of themselves.  Maybe the art of service can’t be analyzed, taught or improved upon.  Perhaps its just ingrained in some.  Perhaps its in their DNA.


  1. Most importantly, my best wishes for a safe and speedy return for your family to their home and some semblance of the way of living they left a few short days ago. lists no fewer than 37 definitions for service. Truthfully, they could have stopped after the first – an act of helpful activity – and have conveyed all that is important about why we and others do what we do.

    Your Boston Market example is exactly that – a helpful act. They can be simple or complex, nearly-inconsequental or life-savingly vital.

    A helpful act is what we all strive for, and why we get so frustrated as organizations both for-profit and not-for-profit get in the way of themselves trying perform them or worse, purport to be helping others while truthfully only helping themselves.

    Technology, process, training – these are examples of enablers for what we're now calling the customer experience, but at its root is still an act of helpful activity. For some service providers, they are excuses for cutting corners or distancing themselves from the people they are trying to help. For the exceptional, they make that core service more personal and able to be cast across a wider group.

    At it's core, the enablers are not necessary.

    All that is required is the service orientation – the desire and willingness to perform a helpful act – that the Boston Market manager showed your family.

    Best wishes to you & yours Barry.

  2. That definition sums it up, Chris. In all its forms and incarnations, service comes down to that. Not much else I can add to that, except to say a very sincere thank you for your kind words!

  3. Barry, I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear of the toll the storms took on your family. You are right, the house can be saved, but the home has been altered. It is a time of stress that we all wish we could help with. I'm so glad that the manager at Boston Market realized that it was more than a customer in your sister – she was a person with a real pain. He switched from business manager to fellow man with compassion to help someone in need. Thanks for sharing this post because I think you nailed it when you wrote -The burning desire to serve others; to provide an experience that connects with customers at a deep emotional level requires the service deliverer to give a part of themselves. The world could use more of that – both personally and professionally. I wish you and your family all the best wishes possible.

  4. Hi Barry,

    I was just catching up on some reading after a busy week and found this via Kristina's tweet. Sorry to hear about your family, I hope everything turns out OK.

    I think you're right about that special something being ingrained in people. Service tactics can be taught and learned, but compassion is just there…you either have it or you don't.

  5. Thank you Tim for your kind words.

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