Last Updated on 7 July 2021

We want great experiences from those with whom we do business. Our customers want the same from us. However, sometimes our focus on “going the extra mile” for our customers causes us to neglect the basics.

For example, Starbucks Coffee has gone the “extra mile” by offering a smartphone app that allows customers to order and pay for products digitally. A neat idea, but the app offers little value if Starbucks doesn’t continue to deliver the basics of friendly service and fresh, hot coffee.

We suggest, forget going the extra mile — go two or three extra steps. Just a few extra steps are enough to delight your customers.

Let me elaborate. Here is a recent example of a restaurant going just 2 or 3 steps with the most basic products – water and bread.


I had an experience at the Clifton Inn Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the waiter brought water to the table, he asked if we also wanted lemon or lime. So simple to offer and +1 step further than many restaurants. A choice of lemon and lime was nice, too.

Their lemons and limes weren’t rough-cut wedges; they were thin and even slices. Almost “classy,” if that’s a way to describe cut citrus. That’s +1 more step than those who serve wedges.

But, the Inn went +3 steps. Instead of draping wedges over the lip of our glass or delivering them to our table in a small bowl, they presented the lemon and lime slices, neatly shingled, in two even rows, on a long white plate. Using tongs, the waiter added a slice or two to our glass. That’s the +3 step.



Same restaurant, different example.

The Clifton Inn serves bread and butter with dinner, as do 60% of other restaurants. Big deal, right?

Well… Clifton’s bread was hot from the oven. That’s a huge +1 step. How many times have you been served hard or stale bread at a restaurant? At many restaurants, I get the strong (and gross) feeling that a bread basket makes its way around from table to table until someone finally eats it.

The butter at Clifton? It was soft. That’s another big +1. How many times have you been served chunks of rock-hard butter that tears apart your bread when you try to spread it? How difficult is it to serve spreadable butter?

Once again, however, the Clifton went beyond butter that spreads to a major +3 step. They whip their own butter in-house. Not hard to do, but above and beyond for sure.

The rest of the meal, right through dessert, was delicious! The Clifton delighted us before our appetizers even arrived. And while the service was awesome, none of this had to do with their service. They pay attention to details and set standards of 3 extra steps that went beyond the normal to delight us.

Bread and water. How sad is it that serving warm or hot bread and soft butter is “out of the ordinary?” These were basic basics. So “out of the ordinary” that I’ve been telling people about it. I’m telling you now in an article. Who thought bread and water would be worth remarking about?

Restaurants have removed steps and stopped paying attention. They’ve decided it is cheaper to slice bread and keep passing it around it until it is gone. And, easier to pre-portion butter in mass and store it in a fridge.

The Clifton Inn isn’t spending thousands of dollars, or investing in high technology, or even going “the extra mile.” They went a few extra basic steps – thinking about the customer experience—a few basic steps beyond the minimum.

What two (or three) extra steps could you add to your business?

A Few More Examples

  • At the point of sale, Nordstrom employees walk from around the cash register and hand you your bag of purchases.
  • Any retailers wrap your clothing purchase in branded tissue and seal with a logo sticker. Instead of chucked into a bag, they treat their products / your purchase with care.
  • In Amsterdam, nearly every retailer asks if your purchase is a gift and, if so, offers free wrapping. (They even remove the price sticker).
  • I’ve been to two different restaurants; one offered a single pot of their special blend of ground coffee to brew at home. Another provided a single portion of their famous scone mix for baking at home.
  • Some hotels…
    • Provide premium, brand-name shampoos and lotions.
    • Don’t charge you to drink the bottle of water they leave in-room.
    • Offer an umbrella to borrow if it rains while you’re visiting town.
  • Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco provides a goldfish for your room to keep you company if you’re traveling alone.
  • When I order pocket notebooks from Field Notes Brand, they include an old-school clicky pen and rubber band.

At your company, start with the simple things… At the point of sale. In the way you print your menu. The way you answer the phone. In your “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign. In the music that plays at your location. Your take-out or delivery orders.

Next time you think you’ve got to go the extra mile to please your customers, realize you may not have to go that far. Just take the first two or three steps. That alone may be enough to delight them.