I took a last-minute trip to Costa Rica with my husband the week before Christmas (that’s a whole different story), when the unexpected happened and someone took a less than perfect experience and turned it into an opportunity to show leadership and true compassion. This happened on our 3rd day when we decided we wanted to have an adventure and go white water rafting. Yes, this would be our first time.
When heading out, our raft was accompanied by 3 safety kayaks, designed to be a few feet from the raft and ready to assist if anyone went into the water. We were not in the water 5 minutes, going in circles because our group hadn’t gotten the hang of following directions yet when one of the safety kayaks unintentionally rammed into our raft. More specifically, my husband’s lower back. Instantly, he was in intense pain and knocked back onto the side of the raft where he was unable to get up from that position. They got our raft to shallow water and seven guys carried him out on the raft to high ground for our wait for the ambulance.
Keep in mind, we were in a remote area, so we waited about an hour before we were driven to a private clinic/hospital in San Carlos. Thankfully, our guide, Kendall, was committed to staying with us to ensure my husband was well cared for and to help bridge the language gap.
My husband was transported from the clinic to a small imaging center, where they did a CT scan on an old dual-slice machine. It got the job done and showed there was no immediate threat that would require surgery, but a night in the hospital was inevitable.
Kendall was in constant communication with his team and his supervisor. He took charge of the situation from the time it happened until we were dropped off at our hotel the following day. There was no doubt we trusted that he was working for our good to ensure that we received the best care possible.
When I look back on those two days, the opportunities for leadership were abundant and Kendall seized the chance to lead by example. What stands out the most is the level of care that Kendall and his team provided for us. From making sure I was looked after while my husband received care, to translating everything the doctors and nurses were saying, to ensuring the bills were covered before we left the facility, Kendall, along with his boss, were constantly checking up to see that everything was being taken care of. They cared if we were ok or not, and not just about the outcome, but also the entire experience along the way. In other words, they took responsibility for our well-being because we were their customers. Kendall and his team showed up in ways that mattered the most, even when things went wrong.
In life and in relationships, it’s inevitable that things will go wrong.
Expectations will not be met. We will be disappointed. While we know this, we often seem surprised when it actually happens. No matter the relationship (personal, family, work), unforeseen things will happen. What matters at those times is not that it happened so much as how the situation is handled. Does the person show up; be proactive, navigate the details, demonstrate kindness? Or do they run at the first sign of trouble? Are they invested in solving the problem, or shifting blame? Do they show care and consideration that goes above and beyond the bare necessities?
As a customer, I want a company and team who show up, because it’s in those moments our humanity is connected. We then see each other as the PEOPLE we are, not merely as a means to a financial end. When we show up for others, we are living the golden rule and we treat them as we would like to be treated.
When Kendall and his team showed up for us, it got me thinking…
How does my team show up for our customers, and how do I influence that behavior?
There are countless ways to do this well, and most of them are simple.
Keeping the customer apprised of details even when nothing has changed.
When I receive an email from Zappos that says my order is on track to deliver as promised, there isn’t anything new there. I already expected it to hopefully show up, but it makes me feel good to have that promise reinforced. It answers the questions before I think to even ask them, and provides me with a comforting reassurance.
Answering the phone even when you know the customer is upset
Validating another person’s frustration and stress is often an antidote that eases tension, even if the circumstances haven’t changed. Showing empathy by taking ownership and responsibility for missed timelines, expectations, etc. goes a long way to soften what could be an end to the relationship.
Opportunities for Leadership
Life is full of ups and downs, and every experience has the potential to be a positive one or a negative one. Whether someone’s husband is in the hospital on their vacation or the sassy, new flats that they ordered show up a day early, we can influence that experience for the people we serve. When we choose to show up and work for their good, we are connecting the humanity in each of us, and setting the example as leaders that our teams do the same.
Cheers to taking a less than perfect experience, and turning it into an opportunity to show exemplary service, demonstrate leadership, and connect with others by living the golden rule.
Executive Assistant to the President