Why Caring is a Powerful Business Advantage

Olivier Blanchard penned one of the most incredible blog posts this week:

21 things my dog taught me about being a better man.

After having to putting his dog of 15 years to sleep, he shares lessons he’s learned from her about how to be human, and how those lessons can apply to business:

“Don’t ever forget that what makes a business truly great isn’t technology or design or a fancy logo. Those are expressions of something deeper. Something more visceral and powerful and true. What makes a business great, what makes it special, worthy of a connection, worthy of trust and loyalty, admiration and respect, even love, always starts with a beating heart, not a beeping cash register.”

“No company can ever be great unless it can tap into the very essence of what makes us want to connect with each other, and no executive or business manager or cashier can ever truly be great at their jobs unless they also tap into the very thing that makes genuine human connections possible.”

I’ve talked about this before – the idea that caring is a powerful business advantage, a quote I first heard from Scott Johnson.

Sometimes, those in big business try to justify that they can’t afford to slow down enough to care. Caring is hard to control and hard to scale. Caring is scary, especially enabling others to care. A company may issue rules to staff as to where and when they can ‘care,’ eg: when they can bend the rules to serve customers and solve problems in non-traditional ways. Lack of measurable ROI may stop these efforts before they start.

This is why social media is having success stories around things like ComcastCares. That they are seeking out customer problems, not hiding them behind phone trees, where they avoid even customers who are desperately seeking solutions. Companies tend to view customer service by the resources it took to deal with them (eg: lowering time spent on customer service calls), and not whether they put a smile on someone’s face. Tony Hsieh from Zappos focuses on this in his new book Delivering Happiness.

You care when you ask “Is everything okay.” You don’t care when you tell people to call customer service, that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with you.

This is why caring is such a competitive differentiator for your brand. Here are some ways to consider it:

Caring is Hard.
There are no business rules around it. It’s hard to create a system for. It is about giving up control. About trusting your employees – all of them – even the hourly workers.

Caring Makes You Smaller, in a Good Way.
When you care, you are more approachable. You go from being a faceless business to becoming a local business, regardless of your location. It makes you seem smaller, regardless of whether you are.

Caring is Not Just an Output, it is an Input.
Caring is not about talking, it’s about listening. Doing so allows your customers to break through. When you open yourself up, you understand that your business survives at the will of your community, not because you control them.

Caring is Sustainable, Trends Aren’t.
Twitter is not what you should focus on. How you can build a competency to care about customers through a service such as Twitter is what you should focus on. Caring works in good times and bad. It makes the dips less deep, and the peaks higher.

Caring is the Best Research Tool
It means you are always listening, always testing, always iterating. It means you are open to new ideas – to innovation. It means your company has a future because you understand that you don’t have all the answers, that you can’t control everything, that you need to constantly evolve.

Caring Builds a Legacy
What are you creating? What will you look back on in 10 years? Is the product or brand you are developing something that your child understands? Is it your legacy? The ‘thing’ you do is not always as important as ‘how’ you do it. People don’t care much about most shoe stores, but Zappos is a brand people care about. People don’t care about a lot of gadgets, but care a lot about those that Apple creates.

Let me know if I can help you integrate caring into your business.