My sister and I got our mom an e-gift card to the clothing store J.Jill for Mother's Day. It was supposed to show up in her in-box that morning, except it never arrived.
"Is it in your spam folder? Or did you accidentally delete it?" I asked. Then we figured out that I'd mistyped her email address.
After we hung up, I called the 800–number to fix my mistake, preparing for it to take until next Mother's Day to resolve. So, imagine my surprise when an actual person answered the phone! (After all, this was Sunday morning at 8 a.m.)
My mom had her gift card an hour later.
Wow, right? J.Jill demonstrated great customer service. I was impressed. The website says their call center is staffed from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days per week.
But strip away the business jargon like "customer service" and we're left with the very ordinary idea of solving problems for real people. What made an impact on me is the company’s decision to say, “Let’s answer the phone when people call, and for as many hours of the day as possible.”
As the consumer, I took away that J.Jill values connection, and even with people who have problems.
Connection matters before anything else. Ad campaigns don’t foster connection. It isn’t in emails, and it doesn’t come from the print catalogues, either. It’s too easy to delete and recycle.
The idea of successful marketinghas to be proceeded by a successful culture. And a successful cultureresults from individuals doing the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual labor of self-awareness and personal growth.
That’s why I’m so committed to the messy, organic, dynamic, and complex element of organizations. As a marketer, that’s why I’m so committed to culture and people.
Sometimes we make this stuff harder than it needs to be. We get caught up in business plans and strategic plans and goals and data and metrics. We forget that it’s also about intuition and the heart, and the very simple questions.
Customer service is what a company does, but solving problems is up to each of us. Now we're all in the game.
If you're someone (like me) who gets overwhelmed by the idea of finding your "life purpose," I hope this gives you insight into how it can work. The question we are called to explore is this: What problems are you motivated and equipped to solve?
After my experience, I feel like the J.Jill company would say, “Hey, we want to sell clothes to women, and we aren’t going to simply walk away after the sale is complete.”
That brings up another point. The way we solve problems becomes our "personal brand" or "brand experience." (More buzzwords!) It comes down to this: What is the experience you promise to deliver?
A brand is determined by how we show up every day, and in normal, ordinary ways. Abrand can be defined by something as small as committing to answer the phone when it's least expected.
I know I’m speaking about a company and a consumer experience, which doesn’t really have much consequence. It’s simply an avenue into speaking about the bigger picture. What’s truly at stake are all of the ways we are addressing profound and complex societal problems – problems that are political, cultural, and structural. What’s truly at stake are all of the ways we’re fostering new opportunities, opening doors, and righting wrongs.
And that takes commitment, clarity of thought, and deep work.
The collective whole changes when each of us shows up as the best versions of ourselves. The collective whole changes when we all bring self-awareness to the organizations, projects, governments, schools, and businesses we serve.
I’m Stephanie. I’m a writer, coach, and facilitator. I work with individuals, teams and leaders in creative, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit fields to improve communication, find a true purpose, and deepen connection and meaning. If you enjoyed this post, share it with a friend! And I’d love it if you would subscribe to my email list, below.