Lance Evans and The “Among Friends” Effect

As customers, we’ve all had “red shoes” moments in our lives: Somehow, some way, an employee has connected to your situation and served you in a personalized way that simply stood out from the status quo. It’s often something small and quick to give you a little extra or to make up for a mistake, and from my vantage point as an executive at a customer-feedback company, I see that these are the experiences that get people buzzing about an organization.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my boys was taken to Primary Children’s Hospital after a routine bunk-bed dismount went wrong. It was an unexpected trip for our family, and it came with an unexpected reminder of how to deliver a memorable and positive customer experience. Throughout our stressful evening in the ER, the staff members at Primary Children’s were all very professional and kind, but the real “red shoes” experience didn’t come until the following morning.

At 7 a.m., a nurse came to our room and introduced himself as “Lance.” He instantly dropped down by my 11-year-old’s bed and talked him through the recovery in a very informal, respectful, kid-friendly way. He offered his services as a slushie delivery boy and a connoisseur of the hospital menu. He connected in a way that made us feel like we were among friends.

Once he had offered every service available to my son, he made sure to offer me his insider food services on the way out. “Dad, he’s cool,” my son said, confirming the standout connection I thought I had seen. Lance was a “red shoes” guy for sure. The next time I saw him, I made the unusual request of having him put on some red shoes as soon as my wife brought them in. Not surprisingly, he was more than happy to help.

Out of curiosity, I asked him what his motivation was for being a nurse—and such a good one.


“About five years ago,” he begins, “my wife and I found out we were expecting our third child. And, subsequently, we found out that he would be born with Down syndrome. He was going to need to have surgery the day he was born.”

When that day came, there wasn’t much he could do except watch (and ask lots of questions). “They delivered him at the University of Utah Hospital,” he says, “and then immediately brought him over to the neonatal intensive care unit at Primary Children’s.”

At Primary Children’s Hospital, the surgery and recovery went well for their new child. In fact, as Lance recalls it, it went more than well. “We spent about two months after that surgery in the NICU monitoring our son as he grew. I was so taken, and impressed, with the nurses that took care of him. I just knew that, in my fifteen years as a salesman, I had never had a day that seemed so rewarding as the days that these nurses were having.”

He adds, “I’m an old man now, and I was an old man then. I’d been out of school for fifteen years, working in sales,” which is his way of saying that this new dream of becoming a nurse was a huge change, and it took a lot of family sacrifice: housing changes, budget tightening, long hours, you name it—all sacrifices that Lance was happy to make so he could replicate the experience he had at Primary Children’s nearly five years ago.

Today, not only is Lance a standout employee of the hospital, he is a ringing endorsement of the hospital’s customer experience: living proof that good service brings customers back—and if the service is good enough, those customers might even do what it takes to come back as an employee. Imagine if every company could provide a similar experience for their customers. Lance exemplifies what all business leaders wish their front lines could offer to customers.

Not more than a few minutes into her shift at the hospital with our son, my wife called me to say, “he’s amazing.” When I first had the idea of highlighting my standout “red shoes” experiences in a blog, this was exactly what I had in mind. Anyone who can take something so uncertain and disconcerting as being hospitalized and turn it into a fulfilling family highlight can wear my red shoes any day of the week!