I was working at LinkedIn/Lynda.com’s offices last week in Santa Barbara, California shooting a course for them on creating lifelong, loyal customers. My colleague, the esteemed author, and consultant Roberta Matuson happened to be in town at the same time. We decided to grab dinner one night, and a restaurant came highly recommended. We were told the restaurant was hidden up in the hills of Montecito and it was not to be missed.

We found the San Ysidro Ranch and were seated at an outdoor table. Our server, James, approached us. He introduced himself and promptly offered to get us drinks. He asked what we liked and immediately made suggestions that suited us perfectly. He was polite but not obsequious, knowledgeable about the menu but more importantly about helping us match our tastes and mood to what was on offer. In short, within the first 60 seconds of sitting down, James had made an impression, unlike any other server I’d ever met.

James returned with our drinks and began to carefully, slowly, and enthusiastically explain all of the evening’s specials. I was entranced listening to him describe the evening’s signature dishes. But then James stopped and asked us a simple question, “What are you in the mood for this evening?” Again, not a strange question but it was James’ responses that caught us off guard. He went on to make fantastic suggestions. He made recommendations of dishes we could share, and suggested what would and wouldn’t pair well together. Of course, being the brilliant consultants that we are, we followed his advice to the letter and had an unforgettable meal.

We’ve all had great service. And subpar service. And even terrible service. But I’ve never had service that was comparable to this–it has quite literally redefined my standard metric of what “service” means, not just in a restaurant context but in how I work with my clients, and how I will help guide them to work with theirs.

It’s hard to describe the essence of James and what was going on, but Roberta and I noticed it quickly. There was something special going on here. So we asked him to tell us the secret, and his answer floored us.

James told us the story of growing up in his father’s fine dining restaurant in Mexico. He said it was one of the only “fine” dining establishments in the area. He explained that he owed everything to his father for teaching him that the guests he was serving at that very moment had to be treated as the most important people in his life.

If he had told me this at the start of our experience, I would have rolled my eyes! But the passion within James was undeniable, and he made us feel it.

I do a lot of work with organizations on improving the customer experience and building stronger customer relationships, and there’s a tried and true universal law that we can use in almost ANY business, in ANY industry, REGARDLESS of the situation.

And that’s this:

Do everything within your power to make the current customer feel special.

It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just make the customer feel special. Better yet, imagine every customer that walks into your world has a big neon sign above their head that says, “Make me feel special.”

There are a lot of things that you could and should do in your company that are dependent on time, effort, or capital. There are countless strategies you could employ that are a gamble. But there’s nothing stopping you and everybody in your company from finding ways to make your clients feel more special.

A Challenge Today: Do something today–even just one thing–that makes a current customer feel special. And here’s the most important part…You need to believe it yourself. If you’re just doing it cause it’s your job, the customer will smell it a mile away. If you have one James in your business, you are incredibly lucky.

But everybody in your business was even half as good as James, then you would be unstoppable. So what’s stopping you?

Send me an email and let me know what you did.