When was the last time you had a wow experience that you just wanted to tell all your friends and family about?

Just imagine this. You arrive at your hotel after a long drive or flight. You walk into the room, and the first thing you see is your favorite newspaper at your desk. Looking at your bed, you discover they've given you the type of pillow you like. Switching on the television, you realize that you have free access to the Netflix series you're currently addicted to.

You scratch your head and wonder: "Wait...  how did they figure all of these out?"

Then, you remembered the two phone calls you had with the friendly receptionist who asked you casually about your various preferences.

Now, this is not fiction. This was an actual story that Michael Gerber wrote in the business classic The E-myth Revisited. When he went to the hotel reception to ask, the manager told him their secret sauce: they use checklists for everything -- down to what the customer's exact taste.

Some people think that checklists are boring, but let me tell you that they are so important for a successful business. They aren't just useful when it comes to customer service - they're great for your sales, your marketing, your operations...basically everything under the sun.

If you want to use checklists to delight your customers and grow your business, here's a few tips:

1. Use checklists to avoid mistakes.

Have you ever forgotten something important when you traveled? Or made a trip down to the grocery store, only to miss out on the one item you needed to buy? With a checklist, it doesn't matter if you're in a rush, or simply absent-minded - you can always rely on it  to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Now to apply this to work. Ask yourself: what are the most important processes that you or your team can't afford to screw up? Create a checklist for those processes, and make sure everybody ticks off the list each time.

2. Use checklists to assess problems.

When an airplane is in a state of emergency, a checklist of observations to make and actions to perform immediately pops up on the flight computer. Without wasting any time, the pilots can run through the list, and do what needs to be done.

Now, you might not be dealing with any emergency situations at work, but you can still use checklists to assess problems. For example, we give our technicians a specific checklist to use when they're looking at a customer's broken garage door. By referring to the list and checking each item systematically they'll be able to pinpoint the problem more accurately.

3. Use checklists to ensure consistency.

Why do people love McDonald's so much? Because of their consistency. A Big Mac tastes the same regardless of whether you're having it in America, in Japan, or in Australia. When you go to a McDonald's, you know exactly what you're going to get.

Take a leaf out of McDonald's book by making sure you deliver consistently, and live up to your customers' expectations every single time. You can start by defining what delivering a great service looks like, and create a checklist that breaks down its various components. Then get your team onboard!

Just one final tip on checklists: make sure you update them from time to time. Your company will grow, and so will your checklists.

Published on: Apr 12, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.