Paul Butler | Customer Service

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

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 planning to emigrate to when my mother 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 accent rather than an English one! 

I had already started thinking about gifts I could bring back for my family. I really wanted to bring back a live kangaroo, but I knew it was unlikely to get through customs. Maybe a boomerang would be a more sensible choice. 

The unique selling point of a boomerang is its aerodynamic design, which allows it to return to the thrower. This made me contemplate how we can manage ourselves to influence others at the level of customer service we provide. We can reap what we sow in our interactions with others. 

On a recent trip with my wife, we went through an airport, and unfortunately, her suitcase was selected for a secondary inspection. Another passenger also had her bag pulled aside, and it was interesting to observe the different level of service my wife received compared to the other passenger. Gaynor (my wife) remained positive and composed throughout the process, and as a result, she received exceptional service from the TSA agent — yes, I did say “exceptional service” and “TSA agent” in the same sentence.  

The other passenger, who was negative and aggressive toward the TSA agent, unsurprisingly, did not receive the same level of service that Gaynor did. 

What’s the lesson here? Much like a boomerang, we can receive what we put out. If we desire excellent service, we should positively cooperate with the person, their process and procedures (especially when it comes to airport security) to receive the same in return.  

We do indeed reap what we sow, and even if we still encounter subpar service, we can maintain our personal constitution and peace of mind — an often-challenging task, particularly in bustling airports and in life in general. 

So, what’s the practical application here when it comes to customer-centered service? Well, as service providers, the vibe you emit while serving your external or internal customers will inevitably reflect back to you. Outstanding service providers take the lead. They approach the task with the heart of a servant. I have discovered that when you genuinely prioritize being of service to others (even in demanding and tense situations), you’ll elicit a much more positive response from the customer (external or internal) you’re aiming to assist. 

However, be prepared to reverse the situation if necessary — when you’re the recipient of service (for instance, going through TSA Security), your disposition to a certain extent can influence the quality of service you receive. Be helpful, and you’re likely to receive help. Maintain a positive attitude, and you’ll probably encounter positive service. Display politeness, and you’ll likely be treated courteously. 

I’ve used the word “likely” repeatedly because people can be unpredictable, but remember that, at the very least, you’ll be able to uphold your own personal constitution and peace of mind. 

Just for fun, I was tempted to attempt bringing a baby kangaroo home from my Australian trip and observe the level of service I’d experience at Adelaide Airport. If I managed to get it out of Adelaide, I thought it would be even more intriguing to see how the wonderful TSA folks at Los Angeles World Airport would handle the situation.  

However, I decided to stick with the boomerang — unfortunately, I’m not quite as cool and positive as Gaynor. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS