Some people think the German term zeitgeist is pretentious, but I’ve always liked it.

The word has no exact synonym in English, but it’s defined as thoughts or feelings that are characteristic of a particular period of time.

During my years at Pool & Spa News, I’ve noticed various zeitgeists throughout the industry. For example, after Sept. 11, the idea of the “staycation” became popular and had a huge effect on how pool and spa professionals thought about their products. Today the focus is more on sustainable design and green technology — and again those concepts have had a big impact on the industry.

But sometimes a zeitgeist is much smaller.

As part of our Top 50 Builder awards, this is the third time we’ve celebrated companies with the highest scores for customer service. Every year when we interview the winners about their secrets for making homeowners happy, a clear zeitgeist emerges. If I had to sum up it up in one word, it would be “communication.” Again and again, each honoree mentioned the importance of keeping homeowners apprised of what’s happening with their build.

And why not? As a consumer, I would be very frustrated if the construction of my pool fell behind schedule and I wasn’t told why or for how long. But while it’s interesting to learn that keeping customers in the loop is one of the single most critical aspects of great service, according to our winners, it’s also important to note that the emphasis on communication is probably part of a greater mind-set. In other words, businesses that place a premium on updating their clients are going to be the same ones who genuinely listen to customers, validate concerns and go the extra mile to fix a problem.

So with that, I offer warmest congratulations to the best in customer service, an award that’s well deserved. I also toast the rest of our winners for beating out the competition and making the list.