Ahh, there’s nothing like sitting back drinking an ice-cold lemonade, catching a summer breeze by the ocean, feeling the soft sand beneath the feet while enjoying the warmth of the sunshine…<headshake> Oops, let me wake up from my daydream! Ok, Covid has made my summer a bit low-key in terms of outdoor activity, but I did not allow the pandemic from keeping me socially distanced from some major indoor tasks I desired to accomplish. I shuffled through the wardrobe closet donating clothes that had gone unworn for years. I reorganized my sheet music, selected repertoire to learn for future performances, fixed performance gowns, and tailored items I had put on the back burner. I responded to hundreds of unanswered emails from months ago. I turned to the real messy culprit…my handbag. Tackling my purse was like reorganizing a whole house! As I dug through old items, I came across a bunch of reward punch cards. Remember those? Coffee shops, restaurants, car wash companies vowing to give you that free coffee, that free dinner, or that free car wash by the time we all purchased, say, ten of some product or service? I think reward systems are great for honoring a customer’s hard work and investment into a company’s product or service. It seems when the reward system works, it’s a beautiful synergy of investment from both the customer and business.
I had intended to forward on my reward cards to a family member, so I took one of the thirty cards and placed a call to the first company to be sure it was acceptable to transfer the rewards to another person. The conversation summary went something like this:
Andrea: “I have this rewards card and would love to give it to a family member to use it at your store.”
Customer Service Representative: “Oh I am sorry we no longer accept the punch cards. We’ve now changed to an online app. reward system.”
Andrea: “Ok. How do I transfer my points to the new online app.?”
Customer Service Representative: “I am so sorry, but we don’t accept the cards at all anymore. You’ll have to go on your phone or computer to restart a new profile.”
Andrea: “Interesting…so there’s no way of transferring the points that I had accumulated throughout the years?”
Customer Service Representative: “No. I am sorry.”
Frustration ensued. I now felt a bit OCD…that is, Obsessed, Curious, and Disappointed. One phone call now snowballed into a research experiment in ethical business practices as I began to diligently call the other 29 cards left in the pile. I was on a mission to learn about these companies when it came to these 'little things.' To my dismay, only one of the companies from the 30 I had in my hand would continue to give the reward that was ‘owed’ to the customer. I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous." These companies enjoyed and reaped the benefits of its customers, vowing they would follow through on the reward system, only to be sorely disappointed that they had put the drive for profits above their customers. Some may argue, ‘Andrea, aren’t you getting worked up over a small item?” My answer to those in disagreement would be, “Yes, yes I am, because it’s the little things that lead to big things.”
It seems the ‘little things’ can make the biggest difference in the world when building love and trust in companies and relationships! It’s nice when a partner comes home and surprises his loved one with flowers. It’s encouraging to receive a surprise card in the mail from a friend. It’s loving when a person is there to lend a listening ear in a crisis moment. It’s wonderful when family includes you on activities. It’s empowering when a stranger shines a smile to someone who is having a ‘bad day.’ It can be life-changing when someone apologizes for wrongdoing to another.
I witnessed just how profound the little things can be during a Sing4Wellness concert I presented months ago. During one of the singing activities, my piano accompanist and I began to improvise a song. The goal of the activity was for each audience participant to spontaneously improvise a line of lyrics and melody as I passed the microphone, crafting a story and song in what was titled, “Pass the Song.” As one can imagine, the story line took interesting twists and turns and made for a lot of humorous moments and laughter among the attendees.
As I was facilitating the activity, I approached a man in the audience who immediately turned red in the face as I held the microphone for him to sing. There have been a couple of moments I can recall in my performance history where I was honestly concerned about the trajectory of some performance error that occurred on stage. This was one of those moments! I had to think fast. In a flash, I began to invite the audience participants to clap for him. One by one everyone was cheering for him, encouraging him, and the room was getting louder and more joyful. I had diverted my attention to the excited audience. In that moment’s distraction, I felt someone grab the microphone from my hand. It was none other but the man who I had just approached. Nervous, he began to sing his line of text. It was off key. His lyrics made no sense. But, the crowd clapped, and he sang his heart out! I could have cried in that moment, because to me, I wondered how that moment of courage could translate to other areas of his life. He might leave the concert that evening bringing an act of courage to some future ordinary activity in an extraordinary way, taking his family, friends, or coworkers by surprise. ‘Tis the little things that can make the big things!