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Seafood TimesI recently bought some fresh fish at Whole Foods Market. As is customary, I waited my turn as customers who arrived before me had their orders fulfilled. When it was my turn, an employee behind the counter smiled, made eye contact, and with enthusiasm in his voice asked, “Did you see something you liked?”

As much as I appreciate quality products and friendly service, so far it had been a pretty predictable shopping experience. Whole Foods isn’t cheap and has a reputation for better than average product and service quality intended to justify the higher prices. When I shop there, I expect for the store to be extra clean, for the products to be extra fresh, and for the staff to be extra knowledgeable and helpful.

On this day, I watched as the employee gathered up the salmon fillets I had selected. He handled the fish with care, applying olive oil and seasoning as requested to each side of the fillets. As good as the service was, so far there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Having oiled and seasoned the fillets, the employee then wrapped them in butcher paper. He then handed them to me over the counter with a broad smile and said, “Here you are. Is there anything else I can get for you?”

I said that I was all set and thanked him for his help. Still, as great as the product and service quality had been, there had been nothing that made an impression—that had stuck out as being particularly memorable. What happened next changed all that.

As I looked at the wrapped fish, I noticed it had been wrapped in a customized butcher paper—made to look like newsprint—bearing the name: Seafood Times. Beneath the masthead were a variety of informative and entertaining stories such as Whole Foods Market Pleads Guilty to Seafood Discrimination and Make Your Kitchen a Safe Harbor.

Instead of bland and uneventful brown butcher paper, I had received something extra: a unique and refreshing version that had been customized by Whole Foods to extend my experience from the store to my home. All of a sudden, what had been a predicable transaction at the seafood counter transformed into a memorable service experience. I now had a powerful memory of my visit and a story to share with others.

When so many retail transactions are characterized by indifference, experiences like this one are a breath of fresh air. Companies that go the extra mile to surprise and delight customers will not only make headlines, they will make lasting impressions their customers will remember when it’s time to buy.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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