How My Pay-It-Forward Story Can Inspire Your Customer Experience


When talking about customer experience — or life in general — it can be all too easy to think about those not-so-pleasant experiences we’ve had and forget to highlight and talk about the incredible experiences.

Today, I’m sharing a story that shines a light on one of those phenomenally positive experiences. It wasn’t anything ground-breaking, but at the end of the day, this interaction was just a wonderful human-to-human experience that made a huge impression on me. 

This interaction also got me thinking about customer experience through a slightly different lens, which I speak to more at the end – so stick around! 😉

Here’s what happened…

Recently, I had a late-morning meeting with my financial planner that took a little bit longer than I expected. Since I’d already been out for most of the day, I decided to take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful weather and go to a local resort that has a great restaurant with a patio on the water to get a late lunch.

Since I’d brought my computer with me, I planned to sit, enjoy my meal, and catch up on a few things for work before coming home.

At the restaurant, I was seated next to a retired couple who was also there enjoying lunch, and we struck up a really lovely conversation when we both ordered a glass of wine with our meals. (Side note: I’d been up since around 4 am, so it definitely felt later in the day.)

We chatted off and on throughout the meal – they even apologized several times for distracting me; I assured them though that it was a welcomed conversation. I learned they have a cottage in the area and a home where I grew up, and my parents still live. Long story short, it was such a delightful interaction, and I genuinely enjoyed getting to know them.

As they got ready to leave, the wife went inside to pay their bill and wash up in the bathroom before coming back out to the patio. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and our names (Hi Barb & Doug, 👋) and then said our goodbyes. After they were gone, however, my waitress told me that they’d paid my entire bill to thank me for a lovely interaction. 

What a humbling and beautiful gesture!

It still makes me smile ear-to-ear.

Of course, they were already gone at that point, so I couldn’t thank them, but I told my waitress I would be sure to pay-it-forward. (Notice… They had zero desire or need for recognition – amplifying the authenticity of their gesture even further.)

On my way home, I was already planning to swing by Starbucks. While in the drive-thru, I could see in my rearview mirror that the lady behind me was trying to wrangle a couple of kids, and she looked very stressed. So when I pulled up to pay for my drink, I asked to cover her bill, too.

My coffee was just $5, and their order was around $30, so the sweet person working the window double-checked that I was okay with that. Of course, my answer was yes because I wanted to pay it forward and hoped that the woman behind me would feel that kindness and it would ease some of the stress of her day. 

The point wasn’t the amount of money or this being an even exchange for the kindness shown to me, but rather to put that small gesture out into the world knowing that someone’s generosity toward me was trickling out to other people, too. 

Who knows… Maybe that woman was able to turn around and show that kindness to someone else she encountered, or maybe it just made her day a little brighter. Maybe it even offered a teachable moment about kindness for her children. 

Either way, this idea of paying-it-forward isn’t new. However, I think it’s an important one to think about in terms of not only being a kind and generous human in the world but in how you approach the customer experience in your business.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a pay-it-forward experience, you know how it lifts your day and makes you feel. Now, imagine spreading that feeling to your customers daily. 

These selfless acts of kindness don’t have to be anything huge or involved! They also don’t have to cost you anything. Every seemingly small gesture counts!

In fact, I encourage you to start by thinking of just one customer you can treat with extra kindness so that they leave their experience with you and your brand with that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.



Showing kindness and finding ways to pay-it-forward is simple. It’s also not a revolutionary concept. However, when you apply this idea to your customer experience, it CAN revolutionize how that person walks away feeling and how they think about your brand in the future.