August 22, 2011
Liz published this at 7:59 am
A True Story of How to Win a Life-Long Advocate
Now, more than ever, growing brands search for connections that mean something to their customers and the people who help their business thrive. The good ones reach to their employees to put human values inside their value proposition.
That isn’t a new thing.
And the brands that long for their messages to “go viral” might check out this story. It happened over 25 years ago, yet it’s so powerful, memorable, and moving that I think of it and repeat it every time I see the FedEx logo. I still choose FedEx over the others, because of this one event. I still forgive their occasional mistake as an accident. That’s a lifetime customer relationship and since I’m still telling the story, in my book I’d call that hugely viral.
In the last century, when Federal Express was at its peak performance. I was working at home right after my son was born. The work in my hands was on a drop-dead deadline that day. I called FedEx for a pickup because I was not going to be able to deliver the package myself.
We were in a suburban disaster â€“ a fast-rising flood. Hours after the rain, we watched from our second-floor balcony as the water from the Des Plaines River in the parking rose above the door handles of our only car. My husband, my infant son, and I were waiting to hear when weâ€™d be evacuated and for how long?
Then the phone rang. It was the FedEx man. He was on a high spot across the street. â€œMaâ€™am, I have a delivery. Do you need this package today?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry. Yes, I do and I have one going I out too,â€ I explained the uncertainty, the deadline, and the evacuation.
â€œNo problem,â€ he said. Then he confirmed the entrance he should use. The door was on a slope above the water line still.
I hustled to ready what I had to send. Then I went on the balcony, just in time to see a young man holding package over his head, walking through water that was up to his chest. Amazing! The neighbors on their decks were as transfixed with the image as I was.
We met at the door. We did the business of trading packages. Then he went back out. As he stood on the stoop, he thrust the new package up over his head and before he set off through the flood again. He surveyed my neighbors with a huge grin and shouted,
â€œWe not only deliver. We pick up!â€
He Delivered More Than a Package
That day that FedEx man delivered more than a package to the people who saw him. He delivered hope and trust to folks silently wondering when they would be evacuated, how long it would last, and what would be waiting when we got back.
He was a hero to people who were in distress. He saw what he saw â€“ opportunity not a problem. He knew what he knew â€“ he could use his power to refuse or do something outstanding, heroic, and incredibly cool. And with a huge and generous grin, he walked through four feet of water to make things work better than they were supposed to work.
He was living the values of company. Their tagline at the time was â€œRelax, itâ€™s FedEx.â€
If that same experience happened today, all of us watching the FedEx man in the water would have taken pictures and video with our smart phones. In seconds, we would have uploaded the pictures and video with the caption â€œWe not only deliver. We pick up!â€ to YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic, and Twitter. Within seconds, thousands of people would be sharing his quote with the picture or the video.
What the FedEx man did was irresistible and shareable by definition. He made everything easy. He made me feel good about being part of it. And he left me with a story that Iâ€™m proud to pass on. Itâ€™s an unforgettable feeling when a guy is willing to trek through half a block of river water for you. You can bet I became a fiercely loyal FedEx customer.
FedEx built their brand on a company community of employees who were the value in their value proposition. Itâ€™s hard to compete with a community like that. The true stories about FedEx hero employees made them the company we trusted, relied on, and got to know as our friends. We didnâ€™t think about other options until the heroes started to look the same as â€œthe guysâ€ who delivered packages from the lower priced brand.
And because my experience with the FedEx man actually happened, I’m still sharing it 25 years later.
Will you even remember the Old Spice Man in 5 years? Human relationships are a deeper, more lasting shade of viral.
Whether you’re a brand of 1 or 1,000,000, the deeply loyal relationship you make with your customers can outlast any single offer, product, or incident.
What is your brand doing to build a winning community?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Need help building that winning community? Work with Liz!!