Most people are willing to lend a hand when someone asks. Fewer people offer help before they are asked, and even fewer when there is little expectation of recognition or thanks, even though those might be the moments when a little help can make the biggest difference.

Take David Vance, a checkout clerk at a Lidl grocery store in Belfast, Ireland. After ringing up a regular customer's groceries last week, Vance watched as the elderly gentleman's credit card was repeatedly declined. 

Instead of saying, "I'm sorry, sir, but your card isn't working," Vance paid for the groceries himself. 

The elderly man didn't notice.

But a customer waiting in line did notice, and later posted this on the store's Facebook page:

Today I watched one of your till staff pay for an elderly man's shopping from his own wallet. I don't think the man was aware that his card kept declining and didn't seem to understand that the staff member had paid for it as he didn't say thank you, he just walked on with not a word.

But I saw it. I saw him discreetly pay and sat back down at his till like it never happened. I wanted to let you know that this is one of the kindest acts I've seen from a staff member ever... It would be nice for him to hear a thank you that he didn't get from the customer he helped.

Later, when Vance was announced as Lidl's "Customer Service Champion" of the month, he said, "I didn't think I did anything out of the ordinary, I just noticed one of our regular customers needed a hand."

But Vance did do something extraordinary. A job is more than a process. Check-out clerks know how to run registers. 

But what often does get lost is the people side. A friendly check-out clerk will do more to make me a loyal customer than a fast yet coldly efficient clerk.

Employees who treat people as people and not just as customers make us feel a little more at home. Like we in some small way belong. 

That's why the best employees understand their jobs are not just about processes and products, but about people.

Because people don't want to do business with a company.

People want to do business with people.

When you see someone struggling, step in and help. Find a way to make a real difference in another person's life. Not just because it's good business. But because it's the right thing to do.

And because it will make a real difference in your life, since one of the best ways to feel good is to do good.

Published on: Oct 7, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.