The events of the Boston Marathon this week and the images that emerge of people helping people, of the spirit of a community coming together in crisis, causes me pause to reflect on perhaps the most important attribute of customer service leadership: helping people. If your customer service isn’t rooted in hiring, training, developing and rewarding people helping people – then you’ll lose both employee and customer faster than you can count to ten.

When you think about the best service you’ve ever had, chances are pretty good there was an individual acting on behalf of a company at the source of that. In our saturated world of self-service, mobile apps and voice automated menus – how often has a machine been at the source of your most memorable customer service interaction? And how often has it been that the person who helped you most did so in a personal way but in a very manual way – by overriding a system default or re-coding your order or reservation to get you what you really wanted? By taking it upon themselves to fix your problem, often without any recognition or reward.

One of the only things positive that comes from tragedies like what we’ve witnessed this week is a sense of solidarity and community that makes our impersonal world very personal again. And as I see images of race volunteers, runners and retirees, ordinary citizens together with tourists administering to the injured — it’s a reminder to us all that every day and every hour people answer the phone in 9-1-1 centers to calm the distressed. People dispatch emergency personnel into dangerous areas not knowing what they’ll face. People reassure us when a loved one has died and we’re trying to plan a trip to grieve with those affected. People assuage the anguish we feel wondering if an insurer covers the health care procedure we need to stave off a disease.

So here’s to all the people who help every hour, every interaction, every day – that make great customer service happen. And here’s to making ‘helping people’ the core of your customer service strategy.