I have a very simple framework for creating a great customer experience that has served me well in my own businesses and as a consultant and keynote speaker on the customer service experience.

It’s only three words long: systems and smiles.

I offer this in gentle contrast to the great car dealer and customer service philosopher Carl Sewell, who proposed ''Systems, Not Smiles'' in his classic, Customers for Life. Sewell explained his point as follows: If the food in a restaurant is lousy, no matter how much the staff smiles and apologizes for it, you'll likely not eat there again.

Of course, Carl's kind of right. But the flipside is that without those smiles, nobody wants the service experience in the first place.

As restaurateur Danny Meyer puts it, the two things people want from the hospitality experience are a sense of acknowledgment and, on returning, a sense of being remembered.

Both of which, I would say, are best delivered with a smile.

Although my systems plus smiles formula is simple, it's not easy. And not too many companies are good at both.

To wit: A few years back, when my family was planning to move just a few miles, our neighbors recommended a local moving company to us. The movers' smiles were as broad as the day is long--I assume that's why the company got those recommendations.

Somehow in the sea of smiles, I missed a fact about its operating procedure: Our dozens of boxes had approximate names scrawled on them like ''girl's bedroom,'' ''his office,'' etc. But there was no numbering system, no real tagging system. In other words: no way to prove if every box had made the move. Or hadn't.

This situation seemed all right (the smiles fooled us, in other words), until we found ourselves missing something, a small work of art we'd bought years ago, precious to us for nostalgic reasons.

Could the sweet little local moving company help us? Nope. There was no way to trace where, or when, or even if a box had gone missing. There were no smiles anywhere once the reality of this systems breakdown sunk in. So, perhaps another way to formulate the success framework is this: Smile at your customers, and make sure your systems are creating smiles as well.