Let’s start with a little scenario. Imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon. It’s bright and sunny and the perfect temperature outside.

Now, where would you rather be, on the phone with your cable company or at Disney World? I’m going to guess that you’ve chosen Disney.

One is clearly more fun than the other, but what I want to highlight is the difference in how these two types of companies treat their customers.

Disney is so much more than a theme park with rides; Disney sells an experience. They have truly captured what it means to provide customer service with kindness. In fact, it’s required. “Cast members,” as Disney park employees are called, are empowered to make sure that customers are having a great day. Not a good day, a great day. That might mean handing out a pin, replacing a dropped ice cream cone, giving directions, answering every question with more than “I don’t know,” or just finding out why a child is crying. And then enacting a solution.

On the other hand, why do we hear an audible groan anytime we mention calling our mobile provider or cable company? They’re not known for great customer service. Dare I say, they’re known for terrible customer service? There are ways to change this.

No matter what you sell, whether it be a product or service, your company and employees should strive to provide a good experience for your customer. Part of that experience is empowering your employees to treat your customers with kindness.

No matter what you sell, whether it be a product or service, your company and employees should strive to provide a good experience for your customer.

Treat your employees with kindness

If you want your employees to treat your customer with kindness, you must treat your employees with kindness. Obvious, right? To help managers and owners understand their employees, they should do their job once a quarter or even more often. This serves as a reminder of the struggles that your teams face. (It also clues you in on an issue of two that your customers experience.) Understanding those struggles will help the company find solutions. This will be appreciated by your employees (and customers) because it shows that the company cares.

Ask personal questions and get to know them whenever possible. At the most basic, for large companies, know their name. For smaller companies, it’s important for managers to know what an employee might be struggling with at home. You can also get to know your employees by understanding how they work best. Perhaps some employees like a standing desk and music while others like to work while seated with quiet. Helping your employees to work better shows you care, and will eventually benefit the company.

Listen

Social media and analytics have given companies a new way to know their customers. Now, it’s not just guesswork as to who reads your magazine or who buys your product, you really can know who they are. Teach your employees to listen to the customer, especially on social media. Maxwell Luthy, Director of Trends & Insights at TrendWatching says, “If a brand has a social presence then it has to be absolutely vigilant about identifying and resolving consumer requests as fast as humanly possible. In a world where a taxi, massage, or takeout can be ordered to the customer's location in minutes, customer service is expected on-demand and near-instant. And while it may seem unreasonable, once consumers get hold of a company through a social channel they expect white glove treatment.”

"In a world where a taxi, massage, or takeout can be ordered to the customer's location in minutes, customer service is expected on-demand and near-instant.” - Maxwell Luthy

What’s even more valuable than analytics? The insight your employees have. Some of your employees deal with your customers daily; they know your customer as well as the analytics do, if not better. Make sure to harness employee knowledge in order to make improvements to the company.

When asking your employees for customer feedback, encourage them to also share their ideas. If an employee notices a trend, such as the most common issue faced by customers, they may also have thought of a solution. Take that feedback into account. This could be done at regular meetings or at your twice-a-year employee assessments. Make sure that the employee feels safe to speak about the company, even if it is negative.

Encourage added-value strategies

Many companies think that improving their customer service will be too costly to the organization. But you can’t have happy customers, or any customers if your customer support was terrible and you’re now out of business.

Empower your employees to enact kindness in customer service. Give your employees the power to offer customers added-value. These strategies are invaluable to the customer, but are often low-cost to the company. What’s important here?

We could all use a little more kindness in our lives. Hear how one man established a network of volunteers across the US who record video messages from the homeless in hopes of finding their long-lost relatives and friends.

This could be comping an upgrade, giving a small discount for joining a loyalty program, or sending a handwritten personalized thank you note. Take the time to think of a few strategies that would offer value to your customer, empower your employees to solve the customer’s problem, and be at minimal cost to the company.

Make kindness part of company culture

Kindness is all about finding the humanity in your customers and employees. Instead of treating them like a homogenous mass, find their individuality. You can make kindness a part of your company culture through HR policies, time-off policies, internal and external campaigns, and random acts of kindness. Remember that 2013 trend of paying it forward at drive-throughs?

When employees love a company, they are more likely to work hard for the company. When kindness is part of your company culture, your employees will feel empowered Luthy says, “The best examples of kind brands are those where the initiative—whether it’s a coupon, a freebie or a charitable donation—tie into the organization's overarching mission. So for any professionals looking to do something generous, ask how it will represent your brand's core values.” In other words, if your company wants to begin any added-value strategies or make kindness more important, those strategies should still represent the company’s mission.

If your company wants to begin any added-value strategies or make kindness more important, those strategies should still represent the company’s mission.

A friend shared a story with me recently about getting stuck in a coffee shop for hours because of flooding outside. When the rain outside started to leak through the roof into the coffee shop, the employees closed down in accordance with their bad weather policy. Then, they tried to kick everyone out. Those that had walked would need to walk home in the pouring rain. Those that drove would need to drive through flooded streets. The customers refused to leave as it wasn’t safe and so just sat around in anger and disbelief.

Now, how could the store have handled this scenario differently? If the employees had been empowered to show kindness, maybe they would have told customers to settle in, try to stay dry, and have one more cup of coffee on the house. I think that would have made everyone much happier and created a bunch of loyal customers. Likely they would have later talked happily about the experience—to friends, to family, and online.

On the other hand, I recently went to see a movie and the fire alarm went off. We all immediately got up to exit. By the time we reached the lobby, there was an employee explaining that it was a false alarm, but sadly, they couldn’t turn off the noise. No more movies for the day. On the way out, every person received a free movie ticket to replace the one that was lost. It was a small gesture, but made the situation more bearable. And we felt appreciated.

There are many examples of companies that treat their employees and customers with kindness. Take the coffee shop that sells coffee on reserve. Order your coffee and then when someone can’t pay for their own, they can get a free one on reserve, on you. Or the pizza shop where customers can pay a dollar for extra slices and leave a sticky note denoting that an already-paid-for slice is available for someone who can’t pay. There’s the hotel chain that greets customers with cookies when they check in, or with towels when it’s raining. These small gestures make the world a slightly better place. These companies take kindness to the next level. They show that kindness isn’t just a gimmick or PR stunt, it’s the company’s culture.

What can your company do to empower employees to show kindness to your customers?

Page became an entrepreneur at 22, knowing that she never wanted to settle down in a cubicle. With a degree in journalism, some money in a savings account, and Millennial-spirit, Page founded her own freelance writing business. Page writes about creating an intentional lifestyle through travel, finances, entrepreneurship, health, fitness, and nutrition. Depending on the day, you can find her writing for various blogs, slaying SEO, researching grammar questions, banishing the Lorem Ipsum, fostering kittens, and traveling the world on Instagram.