Being Surprisingly Kind | Starting a Movement for Customer Experience and Beyond

I learned long ago that when multiple forces in the universe point in the same direction, you should probably pay attention.

So, this is what has captured my attention these days – it’s a kindness movement. I hope you will read on and participate to the degree you feel similarly moved.

Surprisingly Kind

We are calling the movement “surprisingly kind,” and it’s a term that I heard used for the first time last week by the brilliant Troy Barrow, VP of Marketing at Renewal by Andersen (more on Troy later). Prior to hearing the specific phrase “surprisingly kind,” there were a number of other “kindness” forces pressing upon me.

Several months ago, while being interviewed for Authority Magazine, I was asked if I were to “spearhead a movement what movement would that be?” The question was unexpected and my off the cuff response was:

I am passionate about elevating social discourse and treating one another with respect even when ideas diverge. I guess I would be a champion of a civility movement. I could crusade on behalf of not belittling or degrading the dignity of others, through words or actions.

As I shared that response, I knew respect and civility were insufficient. As such, I reflected on how great brands with whom I’ve worked were trying to improve the world through the actions of their people. Here are a few of the concepts that surfaced:

  • In 2006, I championed a business principle in my book, The Starbucks Experience, referred to as “Surprise and Delight.”
  • In Prescription for Excellence, which was released in 2011, I chronicle how Dr. David Feinberg and his leadership team changed the vision statement at UCLA Health Systems such that it read “healing humankind, one patient at a time, by improving health, alleviating suffering, and delivering acts of kindness.”
  • Today, I’m at a convention with my client, Sonny’s BBQ, as they unveil their “Q the kindness” platform. I will keep you updated on events as Sonny’s launches its platform on Random Acts of Kindness Day, which is on Feb 17, 2020.
  • Last week, my team and I were surprised by the kindness of Renewal by Andersen at their Retail Summit when they chose The Michelli Experience as their 2019 partner of the year. Shortly after that, I heard a powerful keynote by Troy Barrow, where he not only used the term “surprisingly kind” but also shared high-impact stories of people demonstrating that behavior on behalf of Renewal by Andersen customers.

The Movement

Now that you have context let’s talk about the movement. This past week my team and I built a rudimentary website and are launching a surprisingly kind newsletter!

As we state on the landing page of the website:

We believe kindness is a choice that is demonstrated through action. Rather than practicing “random acts of kindness” we believe kindness must be intentional. We also believe that it is not enough to be kind only when it’s expected. We want to surprise others with kindness!

Finally, we believe stories of surprising kindness serve to inspire others, so we hope you will share stories of leaders, managers, team members, colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who have been surprisingly kind.

Call to Action

Here’s my call to action and my request. Will you please join us in sharing your stories on our website? Simply share situations where you or others have experienced someone who was surprisingly kind.

Please share with those in your life, that we’re looking for both images and stories of small acts (someone who offered to help you find your way when you looked lost) as well as substantial kindness efforts (a person who went significantly out their way to help you, a customer, or a family member at time of crisis).

You and your friends can share stories via the form on our website (we ask permission before we use the name of the people in the story or the person sharing it). Otherwise, you can use the hashtag (#surprisinglykind) and we will actively repost that content across our various platforms.

I find clients often spend a lot of time and money trying to select, train, and guide their people to deliver a differentiated customer experience. It’s my hope that by collecting and sharing stories of surprising kindness, we will have curated content on the web and through a newsletter that inspires us to elevate human experiences.

If you have any questions about the surprisingly kind movement, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and we can schedule a time to talk. Thank you in advance for sharing your stories and being a part of what I believe is an important customer experience and human experience movement!

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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