Shawn Parr: What Have You Done Today to Make Someone Feel Special?

The head of Bulldog Drummond on how simple acts of kindness can build brand and consumer loyalty

I recently met with the CEO of The Honor Foundation, an executive leadership institute that serves the Special Forces community by equipping them to successfully make the transition from service into the private sector. During our first meeting Joe Musselman told me a story that highlighted the humility of a Navy Seal. The story was about a military Captain who would always wait at the back of the line when boarding civilian flights because it was a reminder to himself that he was in the business of serving others and his country. What struck me about that simple story was the complete lack of selfishness. A few days after speaking with Joe, I listened to a friend speak about the notion of small gestures of love and how they can change lives. These two events sparked my thinking about how I serve others and what we can all do to make people’s lives better both personally and in business.

Doing something for others (often) brings out the best in you

I’m part of a group of guys from all walks of life who travel to Mexico three times a year to build houses in an extremely poor area outside of Tecaté. We invite people to build with us, and to see firsthand how others live in abject poverty just 30 minutes from the United States border. At the end of a hard day’s work, we hand over the keys to a new house to a family who’ve been living under tarps with no roof or front door, and it never fails to bring tears to the homeowner and their family, and to everyone who built the home. The conversation that always starts on the drive home is how simple it is to make a big difference for those with so much less, and why don’t we do it more often. The transformative impact of doing something for others brings joy, gratitude and practical perspective to everyone involved.

A simple act of love can launch a life 

If building houses isn’t your thing, your efforts can be much simpler. There are people in our lives who need to hear words of encouragement, know that they are loved, important or just doing a great job. I heard a friend who works helping ex-gang members and prison inmates, tell a story that reminded me that small gestures can be just as transformational as big ones. As a high school teenager, he was a self-described awkward, shy, geek with no confidence, and every day his father would leave a simple yellow note in his lunch box that said, “Dear Mike, have a great day at school. I love you. Dad”. Mike points to the confidence his dad’s words gave him each day to face his challenges and overcome the fear of living. The power of a hand-written note should not be underestimated.

Make someone in your life a VIP for a day

It feels like I’m in a hotel room a little too often. Last week after getting off a redeye, I arrived at the Kimpton Hotel in New York to the quiet  and pleasant announcement that I was their VIP Guest for the day. While it felt more like a small gesture by the end of a long day, as it involved a simple note, a bottle of water and a bag of pistachios, it was the fact that they made me feel special upon arrival that made the difference. I believe there are many opportunities for Kimpton to elevate their promise, but the idea of making someone a VIP for the day is brilliantly simple.

I’d like the “Nice to Meet You” discount 

I experiment with haggling and it drives my wife crazy, but I like to see what the real price is for goods and services. Is there a hidden discount, a special price, an underground menu? As consumers, we’ve been trained to pay the price on the label. I often ask if there is a discount available or if I can get one. I was shopping with my wife and daughter last week, and upon paying the bill I said, “It’s very nice to meet you, might there be a discount for a man like me?” At first the cashier smiled and said no, then with a little teasing she said, “I’ve just found a Nice to Meet You discount, I can give you $15 off.” It was brilliantly simple that she had the freedom to provide a moment of value and a lasting impression with me that will bring me back to that store.

Designed acts of kindness and appreciation

American businesses have more loyalty cards and programs than the rest of humanity, and for the most part these programs are inert and meaningless. Brands spend millions of dollars every year on programs that don’t move the needle or make a difference in their customers’ lives. Having worked for many brands where we look at loyalty and the consumer relationship as an opportunity to create value and build relationships, there is always room to shift the lens from creating customer loyalty (which seems dated) to showing appreciation for their consideration and their business. Design acts of kindness and appreciation at various and meaningful points in your relationship with your customers, your employees and your loved ones. Asking yourself,“What have I done today to make someone feel special? is a great catalyst to help make the world a happier place and your business more lovable.

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.

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