A holiday idea: practicing the business of kindness (BBC-style)

While running around doing Christmas shopping, I happened to hear an episode of the BBC’s “Global Business” on the local NPR station. It was about what they called “the Business of Kindness.” What they really were talking about was the idea of building relationships with customers, with suppliers – with all the people one does business with.

The example the show uses it that of the Rare Tea Company, a British business that has grown by both showing and being the recipient of kindness. For instance, when the company decided to market tea based on a blend that owner Henrietta Lovell developed for an elderly Battle of Britain pilot as a way to raise funds for two Royal Air Force charities, comedian Alexander Armstrong volunteered to make some promotional videos based on a character from a sketch on the “Armstrong and Miller Show” (an compilation of which can be seen here).

There’s a chain of positive events that has helped Lovell’s company – accompanied by some smart marketing – but these events have been prompted by her acts of kindness as well.

When you convert all this kindness talk into business jargon, what you get is the idea of relationships. Sadly, CRM, viewed purely as technology, has caused a lot of businesses to confuse customers with customer data. You can’t be kind to data; you can’t form relationships with data. You can only do that with people. Organizing and analyzing the data can allow you to scale up your relationship-building efforts, but you still need to have people involved in how that data is applied. Otherwise, says another interviewee on the show, people see through your efforts; transparency plays a major role in how you extend these ideas of kindness to your customers and ensures those acts help build relationships rather than become a marketing gimmick.

It’s also interesting to hear CRM ideas expressed without the acronym “CRM” ever once being used. I fight an ongoing battle to change how people view CRM; it’s a discipline, not a technology. The technology merely helps you scale the discipline – but if you can’t buy into the discipline, all the technology in the world will prove useless. The examples given on this program show that some people understand  this notion.

It’s an entertaining show, and at about 30 minutes long well worth the listen. Consider it a tiny gift from me – an act of kindness, perhaps!

And with that, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

–Chris Bucholtz