Pushing the limits of customer service may not be a part of your marketing plan. It's not a tactic -- it is a philosophy, a principle, and an attitude that your whole company must share for it to work. And when it works, it can pay off.

Stew Leonard's, a Norwalk, Conn., milk delivery company that grew into a $200-million grocery business, encourages employees to use initiative to satisfy customers. One Saturday a woman came in to order $40 worth of food for a lunch party of 20. The chef told her she really should order more, but she resisted. A few hours later the manager got a frantic phone call. "Why didn't you insist I buy more food? I'm going to run out!" The manager put together another $40 tray, drove it over to her house, and apologized. He also refused payment, saying, "No, it's on us."

It turned out the party was for 20 real estate agents new to the area. "Now, what's the first thing someone who's buying a house wants to know? Where's the grocery store!," says Stew Leonard Jr., president of his family's business.

"Right after their party all 20 came down to the store and bought hundreds and hundreds of dollars' worth of food -- they all had full shopping carts," recalls Leonard.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing