The Toxic Antidote to Goodwill,
by Seth Godin
Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.
It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits.
Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong!
It’s not my fault. I did a perfect job. Tough luck.
Architect, the floor is sagging, the beams were put in the wrong direction!
I don’t care. There’s a three-year statute of limitations, and even then, it wasn’t my job to ensure that the work met the plans.
Airline, my two-year-old can’t sit in a row by herself, and the agent on the phone said you’d work it so we could sit together!
It’s not my fault. If you don’t want to get on the plane, don’t get on the plane.
In all three cases, there are significant operational barriers to magically fixing the problem. But that’s not where the breakdown happened. It happened because a human being decided to not care. Not care and not express anything that felt like caring.
A human being, perhaps intimidated by lawyers, or tired after a hard day, or the victim of a bureaucracy (all valid reasons) then made the stupid decision to not care.
By not caring, by not expressing any empathy, this individual denied themselves their own humanity. By putting up a brick wall, they isolate themselves. Not only do they destroy any hope for word of mouth, they heap disrespect on someone else. By working so hard to not engage (in the vain hope that this will somehow keep them clean), they end up in the mud, never again to receive the benefit of the doubt.
What kind of day or week or career is that? To live in a lucite bubble, keeping track only of individuals defeated and revenue generated?
It turns out that while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be cared about.
Of course you should use these fraught moments to reinforce connections and build word of mouth. Of course you should realize that in fact people like us get asked to recommend airlines and doctors and architects all the time, but now, we will never ever recommend you to anyone, in fact, we’ll go out of our way to keep people from choosing you.
But the real reason you should extend yourself in these moments when it all falls apart is that this is how you will measure yourself over time. What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care?