However, perhaps the single greatest thing our boss did was turn a blind eye to the occasional bit of rule-bending that we carried out to make a customer happy and make them feel valued and special. Charging for a bit of cream on the side of a chocolate cake was company policy - but ignoring the negligible charge with a wink and telling the customer the cream's on the house, just this once, was always greeted with delight and conspiratorial winking back.
The occasional second stamp on a loyalty card or extra shake of chocolate over a coffee, the odd bit of table service even though that isn't what we were supposed to do, the occasional nip to the shop to buy a regular customer a birthday card. None of this was officially sanctioned by head office, all of it could feasibly have gotten us in trouble with a pedantic boss - but our manager understood personal customer service on a deeper level than that.
Obviously this works better in some industries than others: law firms and doctors will have a harder time giving the customers a supposedly illicit freebie than cafes and bars will - but the message remains the same. If individual staff can be seen to go above and beyond the official service policies, the customer will never forget it.
By occasionally taking that "risk" on behalf of a customer, they are made to feel special, like they got something for nothing, like you'd take a personal chance just to make them happy. Even if you do it once and never again, the impact remains, and the customer is happier with the service and the rules the rest of the time! In any case, you can bet they were back for their coffee again the next day.
Dan Goss is a writer, editor and researcher over at Customer Service Guru. In his spare time he is a singer, cellist, and avid caffeine enthusiast.