Paul Butler: How to make a difference with service

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

Recently, I went to Australia for the first time to speak at a large conference for a client. I was particularly excited as the event was being held in Adelaide, which was the city my family was going to emigrate to when my Mom was pregnant with me.

They decided to postpone the trip until after I was born, and then never got around to making the move. So it was kind of cool to see what my “hometown” would have been like if we’d made that move. I guess I’d be the same but with an Aussie rather than an English accent.

I’d already started thinking about gifts I could bring back for my family. I really wanted a live kangaroo but I most likely wouldn’t get it through customs. Maybe a boomerang would be more sensible.

The unique selling point of a boomerang is that it’s aerodynamically designed to return to the thrower. This made me think of how we can manage ourselves to influence others on the level of customer service we provide. We can reap what we sow in our interactions with others.

Recently on one of our trips, my wife and I came through an airport and unfortunately her suitcase got pulled for a secondary inspection.

Another passenger also had her bag pulled and it was interesting to observe the different level of service my wife received compared with the other passenger. Gaynor, (my wife) was positive and cool about the whole process and received superb service from the TSA Agent — yes, I did say “superb service” and “TSA Agent” in the same sentence.

The other passenger was very negative and aggressive towards the TSA Agent and surprise, surprise, she didn’t receive the same level of service that Gaynor did.

What’s the lesson here? Rather like a boomerang, we can receive what we put out. If we want to be served well, we should positively cooperate with the person; their process and procedure (especially when its comes to airport security), to be served well. We do reap what we sow and even if we still receive poor service, we can keep our own personal constitution and peace of mind intact — which as we all know, can be a challenge especially through busy airports, and life in general.

What’s the practical application here when it comes to customer-centered service? Well, as a service provider, the vibe you put out when serving your external or internal customers is going to come back at you. Great service providers go first. They lead with the heart of a servant. I have found that when you genuinely focus on being of service to others, (even in pressured and tense situations) you receive a much better response from the (external or internal) customer you’re trying to be of service to.

Turn the tables though if necessary — if you’re the person receiving the service (i.e. you’re the person going through TSA Security), you are able to some extent; influence the quality of service you receive, by the vibe you give out. Be helpful and you’ll likely be helped. Be positive and you’ll likely receive positive service. Be pleasant and you’ll likely be treated pleasantly.

Notice I kept saying “likely” as people can be unpredictable but remember at a minimum, you’ll be able to keep your own personal constitution and peace of mind intact.

Just for the fun of it though, I was tempted to try and bring a baby kangaroo home from my Australian trip and see what kind of quality of service I’d receive at Adelaide airport.

If I did get it out of Adelaide, I thought it would be even more interesting to see how the lovely TSA folks at Los Angeles World Airport would handle the situation. I decided to stick with the boomerang — I’m just not as cool and positive as Gaynor is.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at paul.butler@

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