Here’s a powerful customer service story from NY Times best selling author Andy Andrews. It will make you smile and make you sad. It may even make you tear up a bit. But what it should do is make you think about how you are treating your staff.
I met him at least eight years ago, maybe ten, on Concourse A at the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. He wore black pants and a white shirt with a black tie and bib apron. “Let me carry that for you, young man,” he said, noticing the balancing act I was performing with my luggage and the tray of food from Paschal’s Restaurant that included iced tea and peach cobbler. He didn’t wait for me to say yes or no. The old fellow just grabbed my tray with a smile and was off, limping heavily on one leg that was obviously shorter than the other.
I followed him around the escalator to an empty group of tables I had never noticed and it was only then when I realized that he had also brought napkins, a straw, and packages of salt and pepper … items I usually forget. With a flourish, he wiped a table, removed my plate from the tray and arranged it carefully with the napkins and the iced tea. Pulling back my chair as I hurriedly retrieved three, one-dollar bills from my pocket, he smiled and said, “God bless you.” His name tag read: FOSTER.
After I had eaten, I walked back around to the food court, curious to see if this was a new service the airport had put in place. Certainly, I had never been “helped” before. I saw several other men and women dressed like my new friend, loosely assembled, and talking with each other, waiting without enthusiasm for tables to come empty. At that point, one of them would disengage from the group, clear any trash left on the table, wipe it down and return to their coworkers.
Glancing around the huge area, I quickly spotted Foster. Smiling, laughing, and moving fast, he helped one person after another. Mothers traveling alone with children or elderly people seemed to catch his eye first. He never waited to be summoned. He went where he was needed. Most were like me, shocked at the help, and looked around as if there might be a hidden camera recording this amazing event. I watched for fifteen minutes before heading to my flight and counted six people or groups of people he had helped during that time.
I was back through the Atlanta airport the next day and couldn’t wait to visit the food court again. Sure enough, there he was, the old man with the big smile. He didn’t have time to talk, but he helped me to a table as he had the day before (with napkins, salt and pepper, and a straw) and said, “God bless you, young man,” as he held out my chair.