All across the UK people are becoming “snow heroes”. Stories of bravery and amazing support are filling our newspapers. Indeed the newspapers themselves are taking part in the snow hero lark. Politicians are not to be out-done of course, singing their praises for snow heroes. And websites are even making pleas in an attempt to find the top snow heroes of our time. Of course, you might think some of these heroics are just a bit daft.
But they provide a lesson for anyone running an online business. And it’s a stark lesson that shows just how cold-hearted many businesses really are. For instance, on BBC Radio Five Live this morning a caller rang in to praise the driver from ASDA, who had parked his delivery van down the road as he was unable to turn into her lane. He then trudged back and forth through the snow in order to bring the shopping in. Not much, you might think, but the caller said she was “thrilled” with ASDA. Now, would you like your customers to be thrilled with you?
Meanwhile, ASDA’s competitor Sainsbury is warning staff against not trying to get in to work. People who can’t get out of their drive are being told by bosses they’ll have to make up the missing hours within the next month – or else. Do you sense a different kind of attitude here? One supermarket appears, quietly, to be positive and supportive in this weather, while the other is going on radio and TV to tick-off its staff. And therein lies the lesson.
An attitude of helpfulness, support and trying to do anything for anyone means that you will go the extra mile to help – even if you have to trudge through the snow to deliver the potatoes. Yet an attitude of “I’m the boss” means that even though your company might try its best to support your customers in these difficult times, getting your staff to actually do that, all the time without thinking about it, when you’ve told them off, is somewhat less likely.
In other words, what these heroic stories from businesses in the snow actually uncover are “culture”. What is the culture of your business. Is it one of helpfulness, supportive behaviour and always doing what you feel is right, from your heart? Or is your business a culture that is dominated by rules, financial targets and hierarchies? All the evidence is that customers prefer the former – warm-hearted, helpful companies that are not dominated by rules and that allow staff to use their intuition and nous to do whatever they feel is right at that moment in time.
And these snow hero stories also tell us one other thing; that some businesses are prepared to go that extra mile, to do whatever is necessary to help their customer. How often is that the case online? Shopping carts that break and have been broken for months? Web forms that insist you do it right, or else? Online retailers that charge you the earth for “packaging”? Wherever you look online, what you actually find are businesses that expect you, the customer, to go the extra mile for them. Let’s hope it snows online soon – then we’ll find out the Internet companies that are dominated by a culture of helpfulness towards their customers. Most appear not to be – but your company could lead the way.