Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Empowered individuals create delighted customers – The FedEx story

As a customer for many products and services, my utmost satisfaction means my loyalty to the company and the brand. Delight seems to be many steps ahead of my satisfaction.

I feel delighted , in spurts and flashes while getting services from sellers. When someone decides to cross the line of duty, when someone travels that extra mile to surpass my satisfaction threshold, when someone cares enough for me, when someone relents to my whims, when someone simply makes me feel most important customer for his company – I feel delighted. I feel that someone is able to extend beyond usual ones only because he feels empowered to do that.

Customer satisfaction and customer happiness become the part of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) ; whereas striving for customer delight is ingrained in the value system and DNA of the each empowered employee of the organization. Empowered employees bring more business. They are more likely to retain the customers longer, against all odds. Customers want to deal with someone who is empowered enough to help them in crisis situations. There is clear distinction between authority and empowerment.

Recently my courier service company brazenly messed up with one of my consignment which was to be delivered to my financial consultant. The deadline was passing by and I was frantically listening to the shameless excuses of the executive, “My franchisee shouldn’t have booked the packet. Completely his fault”, “My policy doesn’t allow me to deliver the packet at middle of night”, “I am sorry sir, but this is all I can do for you. I am helpless”. Poor chap – right as per company’s policy; but I was seriously disgruntled. The company lost me forever as a loyal customer and advocate.

At that instant, the famous FedEx story flashed through my mind. The incident is the extremes of employee empowerment, audacious decisions and windfall gains by the company. Caution – You must not test the limits of your empowerment unless very clear. It’s purely subjective and dependent on your grey matter to decide.

Fred Smith founded Federal Express Corporation in 1971. The company commenced operations on 17th April, 1973. The early days were real tough for Fred.

The competition was intense and managing working capital was a challenge. It’s said that once he took the company’s last $5,000 to Vegas and gambled and won enough to cover the bills worth $24,000.

In those early struggle days also, Fred instructed his employees to provide the best possible service to their customers. They knew that everyone of them was empowered enough to take decisions in the best interest of FedEx and customers.

One fine morning, FedEx office started getting agitated and distressed calls from a lady who wanted her wedding dress to be delivered by next day morning from east coast to west coast, for the wedding in the later half of the day. Every courier company refused to promise the delivery within the required time period.

They were still early days of FedEx; and no flight was planned on that day for west coast.

All the attempts by the lady turned futile till the time an executive attending the calls thought of crossing the line of normal duty and help the lady.

The executive audaciously took a decision to charter a private plane to deliver the dress overnight to west coast for the wedding.

She got the wedding dress delivered by next day morning by chartered plane.

Delighted customer

Till now it is the story of an executive going grossly overboard to help a customer in dire need.

Nobody knew that this incident would change the entire fortunes of FedEx. The lady was the daughter of Eastman Kodak (Founder of Kodak). She was ecstatic and couldn’t find words to praise the service of FedEx. The service of FedEx was the hot topic during the wedding. It was a great PR and brand building opportunity.

Out of 200 top executives of fortune 500 companies, FedEx got its first four corporate clients. They gave business to FedEx to enable it to remain afloat.

Rest is history.

An excited, extremely delighted fan made all the difference to the fortunes of FedEx. It was the result of a bold decision taken by empowered employee. The employee empowerment and customer delight are the two sides of same coin. Later will not excel without the adequate former.

I was mulling over the story of FedEx. By any standard, either the employee went grossly out of his way to help the client or the story might have collected the exaggerated facts over the years. Anyway, the moral is – there are numerous moments in our office or home when a smaller stretch can make a huge difference. We all are empowered to explore a bit outside our self limiting boundaries.

Go all out to help a colleague, help a customer in need, extend yourself for the project – this all while traveling that extra mile without expecting return. Believe me you will make a big difference to your organization, family and yourself.

Be in the business of creating empowered individuals and delighted customers. An extra degree makes all the difference.

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Hardeep is an entrepreneur, marketer, blogger, an ardent reader and avid writer. He expresses his unbiased views especially on the matters of Business, Tech & Life through this blog. He can be reached at


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