I'm learning a lot about what makes a company great.

Recently, I started testing two different services at the same time. They are remarkably similar. They both involve having a real person help me achieve a goal. In one case, the goal is to help me become more organized and to take on my mundane tasks. The other company is intended to help me lose weight. The unifying theme is that I get too busy working and need better accountability, so there are people who are supposed to keep track of me during the day and meet my needs.

One of the services is called Zirtual, which I have already covered here. It was a bust. I do need to become more organized but having an assistant who didn't really follow up with me enough and didn't do a good job handling my schedule didn't help. The second service is called Retrofit. A team of people--a dietician, a physiologist, and behaviorist--work together to remind me about my weight loss goals and chat over Skype to provide encouragement.

There's a night and day difference. My Zirtual assistant tried to get involved in my day to day job, but didn't really dive into the details. Things stayed on a surface level and the company essentially provided the service they intended to provide but didn't meet my needs. The underlying approach was, we provide this service and you receive it. That's it.

My Retrofit team worked in a completely different way. The service helps you lose weight by holding you accountable. You have to keep a food log, count your steps, weigh yourself each day, and perform other tasks in the app. The main differentiator is that the team is constantly watching what you do. In a few cases, the dietician noticed I wasn't logging often enough and reminded me (nicely) to stick with my plan. Another rep posted a few tips that were relative to my needs. There seemed to be a lot of hand-holding (in a good way).

I know the two companies use some sort of back-end system to track clients. However, it became obvious that Retrofit is more attuned to me as a living, breathing person.

I believe that is what makes a company great. It's not just an attention to detail. It's an attention to my details. The Retrofit team is obviously trying incredibly hard to stay on top of my progress and treats me like a king. The Zirtual assistant was obviously treating me like one of a hundred or a thousand other customers. I'm just a number.

Think of what made Apple such a great company. You might say it has more to do with innovative thinking or a design aesthetic. After all, we're led to believe that Apple rose to prominence because they make magical products. I don't think so. I've watched Apple dominate in the tech space my entire career, and I know there is one primary reason.

I believe Apple is a great company because they know how to meet real needs. This requires a hyper-attentive, customer-driven, laser-tight focus on consumers. The reason the iPhone is better than the Samsung Galaxy line is because the iPhone meets the needs of a consumer in better, more thorough, more magical, and more accurate way. The company is not magical. They treat customers with a touch of magic. Everything works like you'd expect. That's why the company gets so much credit.

Android phones? They are pretty good. Sometimes they crash. Sometimes an app doesn't quite work correctly or the phone suddenly uses up power and dies. It's a good platform, but it's not great. You may disagree, and that's fine--but I've tested several dozen models and the Android OS is not nearly as slick as iOS; it fails to meet every consumer need.

Back to my two examples. What is Retrofit doing that's different from Zirtual? I started wondering about that when I received a message from my dietician today. She said she was proud of me for having such a balanced meal for dinner. The message came in at 9 a.m. Something about that interaction made me think they have an Apple approach.

This hyper-attention to customer needs will make a company great. It's the key ingredient. It has to flow through product design, marketing, sales, and customer service.

I believe Retrofit is a great company because it understands its customers and meets their needs in a thorough way, similar to what Apple does with the iPhone and iPad. Greatness is wide and deep. It's thorough, it's detail-oriented. Greatness is also hard. The Retrofit team is obviously trying to impress me, but it's working. I'm losing a little weight.

Next time you are wondering if your company is great or can become great, think about how thoroughly you meet customer needs. Think about whether you treat every customer the same or tend to customize and personalize. Think about whether your product or service is magical (that is, does it make the customer think you are making magic).

Ask yourself some tough questions. Then, make some tough changes.