Generosity originally held the meaning “to belong to nobility.” Over time the definition morphed into something one does instead of something one is. But the giving aspect of generosity, which resonates more universally, dropped a key element as its meaning evolved – it forgot about what is good for the recipient.
When we hear the word generosity, we think of abundance, cornucopias and having extra. Hey look, I have a basket of apples, which is more than I need so I’m going to give half to my neighbor. That makes sense. But if I have an abundance of swimsuits and it is 28 degrees, then that act of generosity is not particularly useful. In fact it’s not generous at all but rather some mashup of cupidity, consequentialism and fear.
We often take this same mentality with strategy, content, design and code when we are creating a customer experience.
Abundance can take many forms, ranging from literal to the abstract.
Inventory — you purchased something in bulk because you got a great deal and want to sell it.
Services — you do many things and you want to tell us all about it.
Strategy — deciding to rebrand your company.
Copy — dedicating hundreds of words to tell customers the story of your company.
Design — deciding to redesign your website.
Code — moving from .net infrastructure to LAMP.
Remember: your abundance is not always your customer’s need. The items above may result in benefits to your customers, but more often than not they are more beneficial to you. Remember to ask Cui bono? (Who benefits?) at every stage of your customer’s experience. If the benefit is not explicitly clear, strike it or reshape it to benefit your customers. Generosity is about giving the right thing, to the right person at the right time. If you have more, you give more. If you have less, you give less in proportion. Your role in generosity is not so much the giving as it is the determination of what and when to give.