A few weeks ago, my wife and I returned home from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). It was a wonderful trip where we mixed business, fun, the thrill of seeing new places and the warmth of making new friends. But, as we stood in line to re-enter the USA I reflected on how tired I was (tired of flying) and how good it felt to be home.
One of the reasons it felt so good was highlighted by the U.S. Customs agent who welcomed us home. Just ahead of us in line was a young man traveling alone. The customs agent noticed he was in the U.S. armed forces and asked him about it. “Active duty?” he asked. “Yes sir, United States Air Force.”, the young man responded, with obvious pride.
What happened next was one of the kindest acts of customer service I have ever seen.
The customs agent took a few minutes and explained to the young man about the various facilities available to him at the airport because he was in the armed forces. He gave him some information about it. Them before the young man left, the customs agent reached out to shake his hand and said:
“Thanks for serving.”
It was simple. It was unexpected. And it was wonderful.
The customs agent didn’t have to take the time to do what he did. I doubt it was part of his training or responsibilities. I really don’t think he was being measured or evaluated on it. But he did it because it was important. It was important to thank a complete stranger for doing something that didn’t affect him directly but, in the big picture, made all the difference in the world.
There are two lessons I take from this.
One is that we should take time to thank the people who have served this country in the armed forces (both active duty and veterans). Ours is a great nation to call home. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. And I know it wouldn’t be this way if not for the people who have served.
So, before today ends, find a way to say: “Thanks for serving” to someone.
The second lesson is that we don’t need to wait for a holiday to thank someone. And we don’t need to be told or trained to do it.
The customs agent was just doing what he thought was right. He felt compelled to help young man and to thank him. And, the smile on the young man’s face told me it made a difference.
Bring a smile like that to your customers every day. And do the same for your co-workers. Find ways to thank them for what they do. When you do it because you mean it and because you care, it makes a difference.