The story you’re about to read is a five-star, scale of one to ten – give them an eleven – amazing customer service story.

First, some background. It’s obvious we’re in a tough economy, but somehow there are businesses that continue to charge higher prices than their competition. Department stores like Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus are not known for bargain prices, yet even in these tough economic times, they pack their stores with buying customers. A fancy upscale restaurant somehow always seems to be busy. How do they do it? Their value proposition is simple. Combine a quality product with excellent customer service. Focus on those two areas and a business can increase their chances of success, regardless of the economy and competition.

As an example, here is one of the best customer service stories I’ve heard in a long time.

Whole Foods is an upscale chain of grocery stores known for fresh, organic and higher-end food choices. Along with those higher-end choices comes higher prices. When you charge more, you have to up your game. You not only have to offer higher quality products, your customer service has to be strong enough to help make the price less relevant.

My friend Kim Tucci went to Whole Foods to buy some groceries. He couldn’t find the whipped cream. He went up to a food counter and asked Zifa where he could find the whipped cream. Most employees in this situation would have said something like, “You can find it halfway down aisle four.” That would have been sufficient. However, Zifa is not like most employees, and Whole Foods is not your average grocery store.  Zifa came around the counter and actually took my friend to where the whipped cream should have been, but there was no whipped cream to be found. Apparently the store was out of whipped cream.

At this point a smile and an apology would have been sufficient, but remember, Zifa is not like most employees and Whole Foods is not your ordinary grocery store.   Zifa asked my friend, Kim, if he had anymore shopping to do, and to come back to her counter in five minutes.

As Kim was telling me the story I’m thinking that this is similar to the legendary Nordstrom story, where the salesperson went to another store in the mall to buy the customer an item that they were out of and resold it to the customer. This was not the case. Remember, Zifa is not like… Okay you get it.

What Zifa did puts her into the Customer Service Amazement Hall of Fame. She went back and made Kim a container of fresh, “homemade” whipped cream. When Kim came back he was… Amazed!

The Lesson: Customer service is more than saying, please, thank you and being nice. When Zifa came around the counter to take Kim to where the whipped cream should have been, she was taking an extra step. Yes, that’s great customer service, but she did even more than that. When she realized the store was out of the product, she became a problem solver. To sum this up, here is a question: What initiative do you (and your employees) take to solve your customers’ problems?

YOUR FAVORITE CUSTOMER SERIVCE STORY:  Do you have a favorite customer service story you would nominate for the Customer Service Amazement Hall of Fame?  Please post on my Facebook page Winners will receive special prizes including books and other surprises!  Can’t wait to read your stories.