On a return trip from summer camp, Michael Hess’s young son was stuck at Chicago O’Hare airport on a four-hour layover. Having run out of his spending money, he soon grew hungry and called his Dad for help.
His father’s recommended solution: “go to any of the sit-down restaurants and ask if his dad could give them a credit card over the phone.” His son tried it, and everyone turned him down. “None would even try to figure out a way to help,” Hess explains.
What happens next is quite delightful:
But as a concerned dad, I couldn’t give up. Knowing O’Hare practically by heart, and being addicted to pizza, I knew that there was a Wolfgang Puck Express (“WPE” in the dialog to follow) not far from where he was killing time, and with two or three calls I was able to reach them directly. This is how the call went:
Me: “Is there any way you can take my card and charge his meal? I’ll send a picture of the card, whatever you need to feel comfortable.”
WPE: “Unfortunately, we have no way of taking a credit card over the phone…”
Me (assuming that was the end of the sentence): “But, there must be some…”
WPE: “..so just send your boy in here and we’ll make sure he gets a good meal. My store manager and operations manager are both here, and we don’t want him to be sitting around hungry. You don’t have to worry about paying for it.”
Me (lump in throat): “Wha… you… no, please, I really insist you find a way for me to pay for this.”
WPE: “Just do something nice for someone else.”
This happened, folks. Word for word, just like that.
My son called later to say the ladies treated him like doting moms, fixing him up with dinner, asking if there was anything he wanted to take with him, insisting that he at least take a bottle of water for the road.
Hess, who happens to be a public speaker and professional consultant on customer service, goes on to summarize why he believes WPE’s response was healthy:
—They cared enough to find an answer besides the easy “no.”
—They didn’t worry about the cost of the food, understanding that in the long run they would do well by doing good. That little meal — and the attitude with which it was offered — will surely sell much more than it cost.
—They acted with empathy — the single most important quality in serving people.
—The employees were authorized, encouraged, and recognized for treating people well.
On the whole, simple stories like this serve as good reminders that work is fundamentally about putting ourselves in the service of others. When service is the primary driver of all that we do, what an impact our work can have.
Read the full story here.