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The power of empathizing and listen more deeply
11:59 p.m. the next day. That’s how much time it takes Parkmobile to automatically stop your parking because they suspect that you left the app on.
So, a meal salad suddenly cost me € 33.71. Bummer of course. But I wouldn’t be a Rookie Mind if I didn’t have some guts, so I decided to call Parkmobile and explain the incident. I got a friendly lady on the phone. She was able to refund me some of the amount as a credit. And would I like her to set up push notifications for me? That way I could never forget to close a parking transaction again. Oh, and the system indicated a payment backlog (whoops), whether she could help me with anything?
What a service huh! This was a Fred, I immediately realised after the conversation. Thinking back, I should have told her, “Dear lady from Parkmobile, today you were my Fred.” I can already predict the reaction: “My who?”
Who is Fred?
Fred is an American mailman. And not just anyone. In the book “The Fred Factor,” Mark Sanborn describes how, after moving, he became acquainted with the mailman in his new neighborhood, named Fred. Fred turns out to be a special person. He loves his job so much that he always does something extra for the people he delivers the mail to. When someone is on vacation, for example, he keeps the mail, so that burglars cannot notice that no one is at home from seeing the full mailbox.
In no time at all, Fred became a familiar face in the neighborhoods where he delivers the mail. The residents know him – and he knows ‘his’ residents. You guessed it: never before has anyone been so surprised by the service of a mailman. And never has anyone been so satisfied with the service a mailman provides.
It’s all in the mindset
So, the lady from Parkmobile reminded me of Fred the mailman. Not only was she, like Fred, extremely friendly. She was also empathizing with me and listening more deeply, providing a service that was really helpful. Although I was hoping for a refund of the entire parking fee instead of a credit of ‘only’ €5, I was very pleased with the outcome. This was not about the amount of money, but rather the feeling that this person on the other end of the line took the time to help me. Quite refreshing in a world where ‘computer says no’ is still very common. The difference is in the mindset: are you led to be helpful to the person in front of you? Or are you guided by rules, procedures, ‘this is how it works here’ or ‘not my problem’?
Being helpful as a universal feel-good moment
The examples of Parkmobile-Fred and mailman-Fred are about the contact between customer and service provider. But anyone who looks around will see that the Fred principle can be applied anywhere and at any time. Anyone can listen more deeply to the person in front of them and empathize with their needs. How liberating it feels to step out of the role of manager, enforcer, service employee, consultant, file handler, etc. for a moment. You will see that a little Fred makes the day a lot brighter. Especially in the times we live in, just that little bit of personal touch is indispensable.
So: change your mindset. From now on, let us allow ourselves to be led by empathizing on a personal level. Go and find the Fred in yourself! And you will see, once you have read this piece, you will suddenly meet fellow Freds everywhere. When was your last encounter with Fred?
A must-read book in relation to this blog: The Fred Factor