What companies deliver good customer service, and why are these companies so great at what they do? A quick check of the "best of the best" lists reveals the usual cast of companies--Amazon, UPS, Marriott, Apple, Chick-fil-A, Trader Joe's, and a number of others. And,what are the reasons for their being at top? They consistently deliver on promises, they treat customer nicely, and they do the basics well.

But isn't that what good service providers are always supposed to do?

Good service brings customers in, but gourmet service brings them back And, since today's customers live in a world of stimulation and entertainment, the criterion for praise is a compelling emotional connection, not just a correct service delivery. According to customer service guru Chip Bell, author of Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experience Through Innovative Service, "You've got to add some sprinkles to an otherwise good cupcake."

In his book, Bell provides eight recipes for providing awesome customer service. Give them a try and watch your customers fall in love with your company all over again.

1. Make passion the spice of service

Says Chip, "Customers are attracted to spirited people! And today's customers are frustrated with indifferent service--not bad service, just boring, comatose service." Surprise your customers by being genuinely enthusiastic about serving them.

2. Always add an extra helping

According to cookbook author Judith Olney, you should "Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes." In other words, when you give a customer more than they expect, you are sending the message that you really care about them. They will return the favor--with their business.

3. Put a cherry on top of great service

Consider Billy Rivera of Karaoke Cab in Charlotte, North Carolina, who has found a unique way to turn a boring cab ride into a remarkable experience. Using a laptop in the front seat next to him, Billy is able to offer customers a choice from more than 39,000 songs, which he then invites them to sing along with. More than a few of his customers actually ask him to keep driving around the block until the song is over--not minding that the meter continues to run.

4. Give the greatest thing since sliced bread

A waitress in the Park Inn in Mechanicsburg, PA treats her customers to a complimentary go-cup of coffee as they get their check. Customers enjoy value-added, but they adore value-unique--the unexpected gesture that reflects ingenuity, not just generosity. Deliver a personalized surprise to turn wow into awe.

5. Customers enjoy borrowing a cup of sugar

Trust is a key ingredient in making customers feel valued. It's no coincidence that in the middle of the word "trust" is the word "us"--when you build bridges of trust with your customers, they become a part of your company's family.

6. Let your customers "lick the beaters"

Customers care when they share. Look for ways to let customers put skin in the service game, but carefully choose when and how customer participation is valued.

7. Be as easy as a TV dinner

As business author Jill Applegate once recommended, "Focus on making it so easy for customers to do business with you that they have little reason to look for greener pastures."

8. Be the icing on your customer's cake

Says Chip Bell, "As customers, we all want service that is good--meaning it successfully fulfills our needs or accomplishes the outcome we seek. But we remember service that comes with an experience that gives us unexpected pleasure."

And remember to bring the sprinkles.

Published on: Feb 6, 2015