While traveling internationally to attend a business conference, I had an interesting experience when visiting an airport lounge. My flight was scheduled to leave at 1:30 am, and I decided to have a glass of wine before boarding the 15-hour flight back to the States.

A young gentleman was working the bar, and I ordered a white wine. Once he had served the glass of Chardonnay, I placed a tip in the local currency on the table and walked away.

A few minutes later, the same bartender politely approached me and said, “Sorry, Sir, no tips allowed.” He quickly returned to his duties.

Committed Workers
I was at this lounge for about 90 minutes as I waited for boarding to begin for my flight. This wait time allowed me to observe all the workers, including the check-in agents, food servers, and bartenders.

What surprised me the most about this group of workers was that they were super-friendly, professional, and constantly looking for ways to make the travelers comfortable.

Here are comments I heard from them …

• “May I get you anything else?”
• “If you wish, I can check back with you in a little bit to see if you would like me to get you anything else.”
• “I can show you where the washroom is … please follow me.”

I especially liked this one … “Mr. Flores, I see you are on the 1:30 am flight and boarding has been delayed about 10 minutes. Please stay comfortable, and I will let you know when you can start to your gate.”

This is impressive stuff!

Focus on Excellence
We know from the bartender scenario that additional compensation in the form of tips is not the motivator here. Instead, these employees were going beyond normal expectations only because they value and appreciate their jobs.

The other key point here is they were working the graveyard shift, which can’t be much fun. Yet, they were focused on delivering the best in customer service.

My Takeaway
As is customary with me, I want to take note of what I can learn from my observations of these dedicated workers. How can I apply what I observed in my business?

Here are some examples:

• I can reach out to my clients and ask them how else we can be of service. In other words, take a proactive approach.
• I can provide the necessary training for a team member who is struggling.
• I can be friendly to anyone I speak with even if I am tired and ready to call it a day.

From experience, I know we will not always receive a pat on the back when we go beyond expectations. While it is nice to receive positive feedback for the work I do, it should not dictate the level of service I provide. I need to focus on what I can control.

It’s funny how success is often so simple. I think the companies that lead the way in their respective industry are ones that have workers who are friendly, professional, and focused on providing the best in customer service.

I also want to point out that training employees on customer service expectations is only part of the solution. The smart companies are doing things right from the beginning … they ensure new hires have the mindset and commitment to provide the best in customer service.