We’ve all seen them: the stories of outstanding customer service that hit social media and suddenly grow to an audience of epic proportions.  It’s fantastic and it’s fun, but it seems unattainable.  The customer service equivalent of hitting the lottery.  And we may blame our heretofore lack of viral-worthy opportunities on our perception that our industry prevents us from doing anything that would be so noteworthy.  “We’re not a steakhouse, we can’t deliver a dinner to the airport!  We’re not a hotel, we can’t gift someone with a sound machine!  We’re never physically customer-facing, what could we possibly do?”  The answer is: much.

Neither our industries nor the manner in which we interact with customers prevent us from doing something so extraordinary that it strikes a nerve with our customers and the general public.  Case in point, a story from a credit card company recently went viral.

Christina Grady of Pittsburgh, had to call Capital One last month when her card was suspended for suspicious activity.  She had purchased new furniture and was shipping it to a new address, so the credit card company had flagged the activity.  The representative she spoke with, Tonya, reacted as if the move was a happy circumstance, but Ms. Grady regretfully informed her that her move was due to her fiance breaking up with her.  Tonya could hear the sadness in her voice and felt compelled to do something to brighten her day.  She told Ms. Grady, “Girl, I am giving you

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Photo by Christina Grady

Photo by Christina Grady

4,500 free miles. Go on vacation. Take so many pictures of yourself all happy and post them all over that Instagram.”  Tonya then went a step further.  Later that week, Ms. Grady’s ex-fiance called to inform her that she had received flowers at his house.  When Ms. Grady went to retrieve them, she opened the sealed card to discover that Tonya had sent them to her.

Ms. Grady was over the moon with the sweet gestures, so she took to Facebook to share her experience with her friends.  The kindness of Tonya immediately struck a cord with Ms. Grady’s friends, and they asked her to share her post publicly.  Shortly thereafter, her post went viral.

It would have been easy for Tonya to assume that she could never be the provider of service splashy enough to go viral.  After all, she works for a consumer finance company in a large call center.  But her dedication to truly hearing her customers and responding to their needs as whole people allowed her efforts to end up as a newsworthy story.

The common thread in positive viral customer service stories is an emotional connection between the representative and the customer.  The representative hears their spoken or unspoken need and goes out of their way to exceed expectations.  That connection to the humanity of each person on the other end of a ticket is what resonates with people and allows their experiences to develop a life of their own.