Series on Empathy: A story of customer empathy, kindness and caring

What is the effect when an organization makes the effort to step out of the realm of ordinary customer service and goes the extra mile to make their customer feel extra special. Read on to understand how empathy is an important part of customer service…

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On the 1st May my grandma Pauline Golding, celebrated her 100th birthday. Getting to 100 years old is an experience that many of us are unlikely to have. As a UK citizen, you are entitled to receive recognition of your ‘achievement’ from the reigning Monarch. A birthday card from Elizabeth II does not just arrive in the post – the potential recipient is contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions roughly two months before the birthday to start the process. The receipt of a card from the Queen was to be the centre-piece of a birthday celebration to be held on Pauline’s birthday itself. The party was to be top-secret – although I suspect Pauline knew that something might happen.

Unfortunately, due to school and work constraints, we could not get down to London from Chester for the party on Pauline’s actual birthday. I was therefore told what the plan would be. Family and friends had been invited to the sheltered accommodation where Pauline lives. An official was to deliver the card from the Queen, whilst the Mayor of Barnet would also join the celebrations. Everything was planned to perfection. When we visited Pauline for a more private family party a few days before, Pauline was visibly moved by the attention she received. I am told she was equally grateful on her birthday. Surrounded by people who care for her, she quite rightly became Queen for the day in her own right.


I am sure you are finding this all very interesting, but what has this got to do with Mc Donalds and the subject of Customer Experience? Having set the scene, let me get to point. Now she has reached 100, Pauline is not able to get out and about by herself. About three years ago, things got too much for her to be confident enough to use public transport. When she was more mobile, one of her favorite haunts was Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North London. For years, Pauline could be seen entering Brent Cross, and at some point would always end up in Mc Donalds. With her regular order of a coffee and an apple pie, Pauline became a little bit of a fixture.

I remember her talking about her trips to McDonalds. Pauline would comment on how friendly and kind the staff were towards her. On her birthday, they would always put a balloon on the table where she sat. A lovely touch, and perhaps a true sign of caring, empathetic employees. Pauline last visited McDonalds at Brent Cross at some point during her 98th year – they have not heard from or seen her since.

During the birthday party on the 1st May, whilst the celebrations were in full swing, four guests arrived unexpectedly. Pauline’s reaction was of complete amazement – she almost fell off her chair. The four guests were members of staff from Mc Donalds at Brent Cross. They had brought with them flowers, a card, and more importantly – a coffee and an apple pie!! The Mc Donalds manager, Yvonne, had found Pauline – she and her team had not forgotten her, and were determined to show that they were still thinking of her. How they found where she lives is a mystery – but the effect their actions had were immense. It is quite an amazing act of kindness – and an act that meant a huge amount to Pauline.

In a world where we find it so easy to see the negatives in behavior, it is a fantastic feeling to share such a simple story of unadulterated kindness. These four employees of a multinational corporation are not paid to do what they did. They were not asked to do what they did. They did it because the genuinely care about their customers. I am not sure if I am biased, but it leaves me with a very warm feeling.

I think others could learn from their actions. What they did was instinctive – they did what they felt was the right thing to do because they cared enough to do it. If you are looking for an example of genuine empathy, you would do well to find a better one than this.

My grandma will remember a lot of things about her birthday celebrations, but the one thing that will almost certainly leave her with a big smile on her face is the memory of the four lovely ladies from Mc Donalds and their coffee and apple pies!

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Series on Empathy: Let your gentleness be evident to all

We all love to receive gifts and especially unexpected ones however, does the joy of being a benefactor far exceed that of being a receiver. The story below speaks of how even a small gift can be cause of great happiness for both a receiver and more so for the giver.


A young student was one day taking a walk with a professor, who was commonly called the students’ friend, from his kindness to those who waited on his instructions. As they went along, they saw lying in the path a pair of old shoes, which they supposed to belong to a poor man who was employed in a field close by, and who had nearly finished his day’s work. The student turned to the professor, saying: “Let us play the man a trick: we will hide his shoes, and conceal ourselves behind those bushes, and wait to see his perplexity when he cannot find them.”


“My friend” answered the professor, “we should never amuse ourselves at the expense of the poor. But you are rich, and may give yourself a much greater pleasure by means of the poor man. Put a coin into each shoe, and then we will hide ourselves and watch how the discovery affects him.”

The student did so, and they both placed themselves behind the bushes close by. The poor man soon finished his work, and came across the field to the path where he had left his coat and shoes. While putting on his coat he slipped his foot into one of his shoes; but feeling something hard, he stooped down to feel what it was, and found the coin. Astonishment and wonder were seen upon his countenance. He gazed upon the coin, turned it round, and looked at it again and again. He then looked around him on all sides, but no person was to be seen. He now put the money into his pocket, and proceeded to put on the other shoe; but his surprise was doubled on finding the other coin.

His feelings overcame him; he fell upon his knees, looked up to heaven and uttered aloud a fervent thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife, sick and helpless, and his children without bread, whom the timely bounty, from some unknown hand, would save from perishing.

The student stood there deeply affected, and his eyes filled with tears. “Now,” said the professor, “are you not much better pleased than if you had played your intended trick?”

The youth replied, “You have taught me a lesson which I will never forget. I feel now the truth of those words, which I never understood before: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

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Series on Empathy: Someone who understands

What is our attitude when faced with imperfections and challenges, do we seek to find perfection or use empathy as a way to deal with the situation?

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A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.” “Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer.

“I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?” “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.


Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up.

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”

With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”

With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.

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Series on Stress Management: The Club 99

The anecdote below shares the following moral – Striving For More Is Always Good, But Let’s Not Strive So Hard And For So Much That We Lose All Those Near And Dear To Our Hearts, We Shouldn’t Compromise Our Happiness For Moments Of Luxuries!

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Long time ago, there lived a king. He should have been contented with his life, given all the riches and luxuries he had. However, this was not the case! He always found himself wondering why he just never seemed content with his life. Sure, he had the attention of everyone wherever he went, attended fancy dinners and parties, but somehow, he still felt something was lacking and he couldn’t put his finger on it.

One day, he had woken up earlier than usual to stroll around his palace. He entered his huge living room and came to a stop when he heard someone happily singing away. Following this singing, he saw that one of the servants was singing and had a very contented look on his face. This fascinated the king and he summoned this man to his chambers.

The man entered the king’s chambers as ordered. The king asked why he was so happy?

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To this the man replied: “Your majesty, I am nothing but a servant, but I make enough of a living to keep my wife and children happy. We don’t need too much, a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummy. My wife and children are my inspiration, they are content with whatever little I bring home. I am happy because my family is happy.”

Hearing this, the king dismissed the servant and summoned his personal assistant to his chambers.

The king related his personal anguish about his feelings and then related the story of the servant to his personal assistant, hoping that somehow, he will be able to come up with some reasoning that here was a king who could have anything he wished for at a snap of his fingers and yet was not contented, whereas, his servant, having so little was extremely contented.

The personal assistant listened attentively and came to a conclusion. He said, “your majesty, i believe that the servant has not been made part of the 99 club.” “The 99 club? And what exactly is that?” the king inquired.

To which the assistant replied, “your majesty, to truly know what the 99 club is, you will have to do the following… Place 99 gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant’s doorstep, you will then understand what the 99 club is.” That very same evening, the king arranged for 99 gold coins to be placed in a bag at the servant’s doorstep. Although he was slightly hesitant and he thought he should have put 100 gold coins into the bag, but since his assistant had advised him to put 99 that is what he did.

The servant was just stepping out of his house when he saw a bag at his doorstep. Wondering about its contents, he took it into his house and opened the bag. When he opened the bag, he let out a great big shout of joy…gold coins… So many of them. He could hardly believe it. He called his wife to show her the coins.

He then took the bag to a table and emptied it out and began to count the coins. Doing so, he realized that there were 99 coins and he thought it was an odd number so he counted again, and again and again only to come to the same conclusion… 99 gold coins.

He began to wonder, what could have happened to that last 1 coin? For no one would leave 99 coins. He began to search his entire house, looked around his backyard for hours, not wanting to lose out on that one coin. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to make up for that 1 gold coin to make his entire collection an even 100 gold coins.

He got up the next morning, in an extremely horrible mood, shouting at the children and his wife for his delay, not realizing that he had spent most of the night conjuring ways of working hard so that he had enough money to buy himself that gold coin. He went to work as usual – but not in his usual best mood, singing happily – as he grumpily did his daily errands.

Seeing the man’s attitude change so drastically, the king was puzzled. He promptly summoned his assistant to his chambers. The king related his thoughts about the servant and once again, his assistant listened. The king could not believe that the servant who until yesterday had been singing away and was happy and content with his life had taken a sudden change of attitude, even though he should have been happier after receiving the gold coins.

To this the assistant replied “Ah! But your majesty, the servant has now officially joined the 99 club.” He explained: “The 99 club is just a name given to those people who have everything but yet are never contented, therefore they are always working hard and striving for that extra 1 to round it out to 100! We have so much to be thankful for and we can live with very little in our lives, but the minute we are given something bigger and better, we want even more!

That is what joining the 99 club is all about.” hearing this king decided that from that day onward he was going to start appreciating all the little things in life.

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Series on Stress Management: Stress related to productivity

How critical it is to understand the effect of stress and morale and productivity, is demonstrated by the story below.

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A 47-person government agency had a 40 percent turnover rate and was experiencing deep problems with employee morale and poor productivity. A manufacturing section within the agency was particularly hard hit, and had fallen far behind schedule. Management was quickly reaching a dead end in their search for solutions, and job security was on the line for management. The agency head thought high stress in the manufacturing section was the likely cause of its problems.

All agency employees were administered the Personal Stress Navigator to determine whether the high turnover was indeed related to job stress. Grouped results did show the manufacturing group to be higher in susceptibility to stress, sources of stress, and symptoms of stress. But the group also differed demographically from the others peers in many significant respects. For example, their average employee was five to ten years younger than workers in the other two sections of the agency, and the entry-level jobs typically represented their first foray into the labor market.


Further analysis revealed that the manufacturing workers had several likely causes for higher stress and job dissatisfaction. Compared to co-workers in the regulation and communication sections, they had less seniority, earned less money, were more vulnerable to seasonal layoffs, were restricted to their work stations, and had no access to phones.

In addition, they were isolated from the other sections by a wall with a single door that remained open so they were constantly aware of the contrast between their working conditions and the others’.Manufacturing scored highest in all stress categories, but not for the anticipated reasons. In-depth analysis made it evident much of the workplace stress stemmed from the employees’ youth and financial insecurity.

The turnover had as much to do with conditions outside the agency – career level, maturity and financial security – as those within the workplace. Using the information from the Company Stress Report, the agency corrected many of the internal conditions cited above, implemented stress-management training for supervisors, and changed its hiring patterns to select stable, more mature workers who would not see the job as a career opportunity. Productivity increased 23 percent and turnover rates were cut from 40 percent to 15 percent in just under three years.

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Series on Stress Management: Managing Stress for Effective Work and Personal Growth

Sometimes even frayed tempers etc. can be symptomatic of stress induced circumstances. Should we just let the status quo remain or take active steps to ensure that we can create a positive environment both at work and at home.


Ben’s company wasn’t doing well. Productivity was down, profits were off, and stock prices were sliding. As is often the case, the trouble had begun in the executive suite with Ben and his board of directors. Ben’s temper was known throughout the company. His tantrums filtered down to the lowest levels of management and could set the company tone for several days following. Morale was low. Key employees were leaving, and those left behind were looking for a way out.

Ben’s temper was costing in other areas, too. His home life was troubled and his blood pressure was dangerously high. His physician thought Ben needed to control his stress and recommended a Behavioural Wellness Program. Ben refused.

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Horrendous traffic to and from work made Ben impatient, and most mornings he arrived at work in a foul mood that he took out on his employees. He got home at the end of the day in the same mood. One night his dog bounced out to meet him when he pulled into the driveway. Ben, short-tempered as usual, “nudged” him out of the way with the side of his foot. The dog, taking a cue from his master, nipped Ben and tore his pant leg. Ben’s wife and children further infuriated Ben by cheering the dog for having saved the household from “Godzilla.”

Ben finally got the message and followed his doctor’s advice. The Behavioural Wellness Program helped Ben identify the areas of stress in his life and gave him suggestions on how to deal with them effectively. He was able to get on top of the lion’s share of his stress simply by changing his schedule by coming in to work and going home an hour later, thus avoiding rush-hour traffic.

The results were measurable within a year: His company got back on track, its stock leapt, and Ben’s blood pressure had dropped to a healthier level. Eventually, he was able to discontinue his anti-hypertensive medication and reverse his company’s downward slide.

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Series on Stress Management: Managing Stress for a healthy body

Sometimes we don’t even understand how stressed we are and misconstrue the bodily symptoms as associated to a medical issue. We must realize how stress can affect not only our mind but body as well and must take remedial steps to ensure there isn’t irreversible damage.

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A 35-year-old marketing executive was surprised when her cardiologist suggested stress management to treat her “heart attack” symptoms. Marketing director for an aggressive high-tech firm, she was in line for promotion to vice president. She drove a new sports car, traveled extensively, and had an active social life. She felt stressed occasionally, but believed she was in control of her life and doing quite nicely.

However, inside, she felt like, “the wheels on my tricycle are about to fall off. I’m a mess.” For several months, she had had attacks of shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pains, dizziness, and tingling sensations in her fingers and toes. She had become prone to a sense of doom that made her anxious to the point of panic. She dreaded the panic attacks, which struck without reason or warning.


Her symptoms were so severe that on two occasions she rushed to a nearby hospital emergency room, fearing she was having a heart attack. The first episode followed an argument with her boyfriend about the future of their relationship; the second followed a fight at work with her boss over a new marketing campaign. Tests found nothing wrong with her heart. She left the hospital with instructions to breathe into a paper bag to reduce hyperventilation, and a prescription for tranquilizers. She felt foolish, embarrassed, angry, and confused, and convinced that she had almost had a heart attack.

She sought the advice of a cardiologist, who ran a battery of tests at considerable cost but with no physical findings. He noted her stress, though, and recommended a Behavioural Wellness Program (BWP). The BWP showed the executive how susceptible she was to stress, what was causing it, and how her stress expressed itself in her “heart attack” and other symptoms. It also provided resources for constructing an effective stress action plan that put her back in control of her life. Her utilization of medical benefits dropped off sharply and her company was able to keep a valuable employee functioning at full capacity.

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