Recently, I visited a small Vermont town. My son and I ate dinner at a local restaurant, the Tiptop Café, and chatted with the waiter while enjoying our food. The entrée was tasty, but cost a bit more than I wanted to spend. I decided not to return.

Two hours later, back at my hotel, I received a phone call from the front desk. Was I the Erika Taylor who had just eaten dinner at the Tiptop? I had left my credit card at the restaurant.

The place was already closed when I returned. Standing among the empty tables, I asked the manager how she found me. It turns out, she called four hotels before hitting on the right one.

“We were getting ready to lock up, and I didn’t know how much longer you’d be in town,” she explained. “What if you were leaving tomorrow morning and needed your credit card? Our waiter said you guys are from out of state. You’d be stuck.”

The next night, rather than eat somewhere less expensive, I chose to give my business to the Tiptop once again. Furthermore, I will periodically return to that town over the next few years, and plan to make it a point to buy a Tiptop meal at every visit.

It’s no secret that the pool and spa market is down, and companies are trying to become more competitive wherever possible. I frequently hear industry members talk about the importance of good service. But at times like these, “good” service isn’t enough. You must be nothing short of spectacular.

Providing exemplary service takes time. It’s hard. You must be creative. But, like the manager of the Tiptop, if you commit to doing whatever is necessary to set your company apart, the reward will be incredibly loyal customers.