I shop at two health food stores. I am a frequent customer, stopping by at least once if not twice a week. Nearly every time I stand at the checkout, I end up having a conversation with the clerk. It's nice to be able to do that, since they're both small operations and the customer flow is decent but not harried.

In Store No. 1, the clerks are nice. As they ring me up, we might chat for a moment about the weather or something from the morning newspaper. They'll throw a couple of samples into my bag and send me off with, "Have a nice day." Pleasant enough. The next time I go in, they're still hospitable, but don't offer a hint of recognition of me as a regular shopper. It's as if they've never seen me before in their lives.

As I approach the cash register at Store No. 2, the clerks ask me how I liked that new protein powder I bought last week, or how my husband reacted to the smell of that macadamia nut lotion they saw me testing. They'll remember the special diet I'm on and recommend a product that just arrived in the store. They, too, give me samples and tell me to have a nice day, but this time when I leave, I feel they just might ask me how that day went the next time they see me.

Store No. 1 has good customer service, something that's acceptable to most business owners. Nice, helpful employees that toe the party line. No fuss, no muss.

Store No. 2 has outstanding customer service -- they're on fire. They're all about delivering a great shopping experience, subtly working to give shoppers more than they expected. And they're genuinely interested in their customers as individuals.

Guess which store just opened a fourth location to meet customer demand?

It doesn't take the memory of an elephant to remember your customers or clients, just a little more awareness of the universe around you -- and your patrons. You say you want to grow your business? Start getting to know your customer and her life in the world outside your door.