Have you ever received a handwritten note; had an old friend reach out just to say hello or that they’re thinking about you; had a co-worker leave a post-it note on your desk with a hand-drawn smile when you’re having a bad day?

Even though these acts cost next-to-nothing, there’s a priceless quality to them. According to the firm TrendWatching.com, practicing random acts of customer kindness represents an emerging consumer trend that runs in parallel with customers becoming more frugal in their spending over the past few years.

A study by Booz & Co. and Young & Rubicam shows that while brand attributes such as exclusivity have gone down in popularity over the past few years, traits such as kindness and empathy and being friendly are up in value by 300% and 150% respectively. Customers more and more want business and organizations to be increasingly “human.”

Henry Mason, TrendWatching head of research and analytics, notes: “For consumers long used to – and annoyed by – distant, inflexible, self-serving corporations, any acts of kindness by brands will be gratefully received.

“For brands, increasingly open communications, both with and between consumers (especially online), means it’s never been easier to surprise and delight audiences; whether sending gifts, responding to publicly-expressed moods or just showing that they care.”

An example of surprise and delight acts is Biotherm reaching out to Twitter users having a bad day with free samples:

A Starbucks employee went old school, writing notes on customers’ coffee cups: Read Customer Delight Doesn’t Have to Cost Big Bucks; It Just Takes Small Change.

In larger random acts of kindness, LEGO sent a surprise gift to a child who had saved his money for two years to buy a train set, only to find it was out of production when he finally had enough money to purchase it. His father was so moved that he filmed his son as he opened the box that had arrived by mail:

The Beauty in Truly Random Acts
Where brands can impact the everyday customer experience is to emphasize the random in acts of kindness. Imagine if each CSR reached out to just one customer once a day or once a week, whether that’s by phone, email, social media or what have you, just to say thanks for being a customer or hope your day’s going well.

Big data and social media provide brands the ability to now connect with their customers on a personal level, and small gestures like a note of thanks are often just as meaningful as large ones. The brands that recognize this, and do small unexpected kindnesses with no expectations, will master what customers are craving from today’s big brands: authenticity and the delight created by random acts of kindness, whether they experience it themselves or the experience is shared by someone they know.