It had been a long day.
My 10-year-old daughter and I were sitting in a Delta Sky Club in Atlanta. We’d started our day about 22 hours earlier and 6 time zones away, and had already spent 12 hours on planes. We were watching the clock tick slowly toward midnight as flight delays mounted for our final flight to Memphis.
I’d had enough coffee, and enough experience with late night flight delays, to take the day in stride. My daughter, though a seasoned traveler in her own right, was nearing the end of her patience. The expression on her face said it all â€“ I’m done with today, please get me home.
And apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed. As we were gazing across the deserted room and watching the workers straighten up chairs and tables in preparation for closing time, we heard:
â€œExcuse me, miss?â€
We looked up and saw one of the staff smiling down at us.Â He went on:
â€œIt looks like you’ve had a long day. If it’s okay with your dad, I’d like to give you this.â€Â He held something out in his hand.Â â€œI make them from the tops of champagne bottles, it’s a hobby of mine.â€
â€œI hope you have a good flight!â€ he said, and then went back to straightening up.
It was a uniquely personal touch to a travel experience that, up to that point, had been pleasant but ordinary, full of those sanitized â€œwe value your loyaltyâ€ greetings that are so often devoid of substance.
It was nothing corporate-sanctioned or corporate-approved, probably nothing that anyone at Delta ever knew anything about.
It was a completely selfless gesture, a cool little doodad he whipped up on the fly, just his way of sharing a smile with a kid who’d had a long day.
It was the product of a happy employee.
And its impact is almost immeasurable. My daughter will remember it for years, and so will I. Â It will be the first thing that comes to mind when I visit that Sky Club, and will probably be top of mind every time I open a champagne bottle. It’s hard to say when, or if, that little gesture will ever be forgotten.
That’s why you need to hire happy employees. Anyone, happy or not, people person or not, can fake courteousness and deliver a â€œbare minimumâ€ customer experience. But the little things that make a big difference can’t be faked. They come from people who are genuinely happy in their jobs and their lives, and who are in a position to share that happiness with others.
Find those people. Hire them. Empower them. Resist the urge to manage their happiness, to require 37 pieces of flair.
And if you’re a one-person shop, don’t be afraid to be happy yourself â€“ and to show it. Your customers will notice, they will remember, and they will appreciate it.