Kindness encompasses the interpersonal qualities of being friendly, generous and considerate. We also associate kindness with affection, gentleness, warmth, concern and care. Kindness is not weakness, as its effective practice requires the conscious and consistent application of personal resources to others.
Research has shown practising kindness brings about sustained well-being, is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage and is something many US colleges now emphasise in admission applications. Heightening one’s observation skills to identify people in need and how you can offer them a helping hand creates a sense of community and makes good business sense.
There is an old marketing adage that says “people buy from people they like.” Just as we are drawn to and trust the kind people in our personal lives, we do the same in business. Buyers are spoiled for choice today and this is why marketers talk about the importance of differentiating your brand from others. When everybody is doing everything right, your business can stand out by practising its own brand of kindness.
Simple acts your team can employ are making eye contact, a smile, learning and using someone’s name, a kind word, asking a customer about their day, opening a door, or helping carry a heavy load. Are your staff attentive and fully engaged with the person they are serving? Are they saying “please” and “thank you?” Do their verbal and non-verbal cues say, “I am pleased to serve you?”
In business, the kindness of going the extra mile is giving customers more than they are paying for or expect. Cultivate a team that are in-tune to other people, observant and love to serve customers. This kind of team naturally builds relationships with customers and are better able to see opportunities to do more than expected. What if staff were empowered to randomly surprise customers by ‘paying it forward’ with a free something ‘just because?’
Is your brand showing kindness to the environment by using recyclable or compostable packaging? Is your store accessible and inclusive to those who use wheelchairs, are less mobile or sight impaired? Are your COVID safe practices and signage visible and are you doing more than the bare minimum? More than ever now customers will notice and value the health, socially and environmentally conscientious brand.
Even bathrooms can express kindness. A chain restaurant has a graphic on their floor so patrons have something fun and clever to read. There’s a bakery chain that plays French lessons for the benefit of those using their facilities. Your bathroom can show kindness by thinking through the customer experience at all levels.
The courage to give and receive truthful feedback is a key component of humility and kindness. If a mistake is made, own up to it. Do you have a plan in place when things go wrong? A bad experience can be converted from potentially bad reviews to raving fans. Give your team the discretionary power to right a bad experience and when they do, the generosity of kindness dictates it exceed the loss your customer experienced.
Kindness is a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else’s successes and to be openly happy for the other person. Do you share your team’s accomplishments or life events and recognise outstanding team members publicly so they feel appreciated? Do you do it in creative ways and not just by a photo on the wall? Do you celebrate customer’s birthdays by giving them an unexpected gift on their special day?
Kindness includes being kind to yourself. Many small-business owners neglect their health and wellbeing and not surprisingly mental health issues are more prevalent among small business owners than other members of the workforce. Separating business and personal time, prioritising time with family or friends, disconnecting from devices and scheduling short breaks away will help avoid exhaustion or burn out. Plan to be kind to yourself.
Viktoria Darabi, Founder, Savvy and Successful and Business Connect Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre