According to polish sociologist, Piotr Sztompka, “the concept of social existence carries the message that the social world is nothing other than an interpersonal field, an inter-human space, filled with encounters, contacts, interactions, relationships. social bonds, ties or links with others covering the whole spectrum from love and intimacy to interests and contracts, from cooperation to competition, from consensus to quarrel, from peace to war. And this embeddedness of human beings in the relationships with other human beings occurs nowhere else but in our everyday experiences. It is the central, social aspect of our existence as humans.

Evolutionary theory, laboratory experiments and field observations indicate that humans are “social animals” who take a strong interest in the effects of their actions on others. 

Disclaimer: Despite working in the Customer Experience industry, I’m not here to tell you about the amazing customer service stories which you can easily find on the web, but to remind you that everyone has something to offer and make you think about how the smallest gestures can change lives.

The butterfly effect

Take the example of Doral Chenoweth and Ted “Golden Voice” Williams.

Ted Williams was homeless in 2011, when a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, Doral Chenoweth, made him famous with a viral Internet video story

By the time he was discovered, Ted had spent several years living on the streets. One day when driving to a shopping with his wife, the reporter sat at a stoplight in his car and he saw Ted holding a sign, which stated, “I have a God given gift of a voice.” He rolled down his car window and asked him to say something with his voice, and “that golden, velvety old-school radio voice came out”. They were so surprised that him and his wife exclaimed out loud, “Wow”. The light turned green, Doral handed him a dollar and moved on.

A week later he needed a fresh video for and he thought about Ted. He drove to that part of town, saw him, and immediately pulled out his flip cam and sort of duplicated the experience he had a week earlier. Then Doral introduced himself, asked Ted to meet him across the street so they could talk a bit and he got to know his strugglings with alcohol, drug abuse, and, most important, the desire to have another chance in life.

Doral wasn’t happy with the ending of Ted’s video (his voice was kind of trailing off), so he kept it on a folder on his computer and got busy with other news stories. But this “Wow” reaction him and his wife had stood out on his head, so he went back a few more times looking for Ted but he never saw him. He then discovered he spent part of the holidays with his children, so he wasn’t around. 

On the first Monday of January 2011, Doral was having a slow news day. He decided to go grab a coffee at Starbucks. On his way back, he saw the door of a big church opened and he thought “it’s the first work day of the new year, so maybe I’ll sit in the church, have my coffee, and simply pray for safety and having a good year.” 

There were only two other people in the church, both homeless men trying to stay warm. Doral finished his prayer, sipped his coffee, went back to Dispatch and posted Ted “Golden Voice” Williams’ video. It did the average amount of video traffic on Monday, then on Tuesday it went viral, with around 30 million hits…and the rest is story. Ted was soon offered voice work by many major organizations including the NFL, MSNBC, Kraft.

Doral felt great, knowing a simple video has helped a homeless man get off the streets, but he wasn’t expecting to have his inbox bombarded with messages like this one:

“Found myself actually looking at the homeless guys’ face today at the post office realizing I’d been walking by him for the past few years not once really making eye contact. I’m not one to usually give any money or conversation to them, always thinking they probably are pedophiles or something. After this story, need to check myself, as it reminded me that not all homeless guys are bad people and a little caring can go a long ways.”

Magic happens! No, it’s not magic, it’s just how the word gets out when you truly care and show appreciation

The reverse of the medal

Airlines industry, for a long time now, had significantly been on the decline, as they continue to test our patience and tolerance with new fees, delays, cabin baggage rules and so on. But how an airline’s staff and crew handle these and treats customers can go from best to worse.

Take the example of Southwest Airlines, USA’s largest domestic air carrier since 2003, according to U.S. Department of Transportation. When employees are taught to live the Southwest way,” the airline encourages them to “put others first” and “demonstrate proactive customer service.” 

Southwest gives me the freedom to be myself and celebrate with our customers or be a shoulder to cry on in times of need,” says one of its employees which are known to occasionally perform for customers. Don’t believe me? Check the impersonator and the pole dancer. And these are just a couple of examples of all they can do to make each flight remarkable. 

Southwest Airlines has a long history of creating wow customer experiences, so it should not come as a surprise. 

What does come as a surprise is the story of this dad and his small daughter that were kicked out of a Southwest flight. 

A toddler had previously been unsettled and unruly while the plane, heading from Chicago to Atlanta, was getting ready for takeoff. As some passengers mentioned “the child had a fit for about three minutes…while still boarding and people were seating. Then the flight attendant in red came over and said she needs to calm and sit or she will be escorted off…The man calms the child, gets her popcorn, sets her up,” but that wasn’t good enough. They were both sitting their seats quietly when the attendants returned to ask them to leave the plane, which they did.

Here’s the video and full story of the incident.

I travel quite frequently and always felt that being part of an airplane cabin crew is a tremendously challenging position, requiring an enormous amount of patience and some specific skills to deal with the most varied personality types. It also requires great problem solving skills and the ability to quickly and accurately assess situations, but I must say this is not the case here. 

I’m also a father of a child and know how difficult it can be for parents to deal with their child when they get into an airplane, even the most well behaved kid! 

But hey, this girl is only 2. If she was scared to fly on this flight, can you imagine how scared she’ll be a next time?

Southwest describes “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” but something different happened here, as these flight attendants didn’t embodied these values. 

As humans we have to show more kindness and compassion, and that applies to situations such as this. 

It seemed like an extreme measure, but clearly not to the flight attendants who got defensive when other passengers spoke up in the dad’s defense. 

Southwest can definitely delight their customers, but are they consistent? Maybe the two experiences cancel each other out?

It’s not all black and white, but consistency can change everything


Think about this from Bruce Kasanoff in Forbes:

Powerful thoughts change the world, once they reach a certain consistent intensity. The true test is whether your thoughts are powerful enough to change your own actions.

Or the story of the NY bagel shop manager that drove 6 hours to return a key fob that a customer had left in his shop. All that because one of his customers was in need “That is what I was always taught: if I am able to help – help,” he told Inside Edition.

Consider for a moment a child learning process. In each stage of their lives, children need consistency; that’s how they learn how to walk, talk, write, elaborate their ideas and speech. And we, adults, the ones who should be consistent in always keep them physically and emotionally safe and know their individual needs to enable them to develop the skills necessary for self-regulation such as self-esteem, confidence and trust.

The core of this is that consistency creates confidence and trust. It creates an experience which human beings can rely upon every time. We tend to have the most trust in people who are there for us consistently through good times and bad. Regularly showing someone that you’re there for them is an effective way to build trust.

It’s not a single event that makes people trust you, that makes people enjoy working with you or even that makes people love you. As Simon Sinek says in this must-see interview “it’s about the little, consistent things we do everyday that makes the difference”.

In the end…

 And the truth here is that we all have the potential to improve lives and relationships, change beliefs, make someone’s day and inspire action. 

As Paul McCartney once wrote: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Don’t forget that.