Recently, on a plane to Dallas, I began chatting with the woman sitting next to me. She was in her mid-50s, lived in Texas, and spent a lot of time babysitting her two grandchildren.

I told her what I did for a living, and she eagerly began to talk about her family’s pool.

“We love it so much,” she said. “I take the kids in there all the time, and even the little one is learning how to swim.” She went on to tell me that buying that pool was one of the smartest things she and her husband had ever done.

I listened, always happy to hear about someone enjoying their pool, even if what she said was pretty standard. Then the woman came out with a more unusual statement.

“The company that built our pool was incredible,” she told me. “They did such a great job, I’ll never forget it. It’s a family-owned business, and the customer service was amazing.”

Her builder was Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas.

I wasn’t surprised to hear the name — Claffey has a great reputation — but there were a couple aspects of this woman’s testimonial that made me listen closer.

First, I was struck by the freshness in her voice when she told the story. It was hard to believe the pool had been in place for 12 years, since this woman’s enthusiasm made it sound like construction was completed a month ago. Yes, the company probably remained top-of-mind for her since she bought all of her chemicals from Claffey’s retail store.

But it was more than that. The woman knew the names of the three principals and asked, with real concern, how they were faring during the recession. I wish I’d inquired, but my sense is that the Claffeys are great about keeping in touch with past customers. They somehow created, for this woman, a personal investment in their firm.

The second thing that impressed me about the testimonial was its effectiveness. The woman personally knew five or six people who had Claffey build their pools after she recommended them, and according to her, they all had the same experience. Word-of-mouth travels, and I have no doubt that many more pools were sold as a result.

The fact that the project was built correctly made this woman happy, but it was the great customer service that put Claffey Pools over the top in her mind.

Everyone has had to cut expenses in this economy, and I’m sure Claffey is no exception. But I would guess that the cuts they made didn’t impact the experience of the customer. This means that when our market turns around, there will be a stack of recommendations waiting for them.