I love Tabasco pepper sauce…on just about everything. Having lived a while in New Mexico and having working a lot in Mexico and Central America, I have a strong preference for hot spicy food, especially if it has a Hispanic style. A good breakfast is not a perfect breakfast without a few jalapenos on the side and a lot of Tabasco pepper sauce on top.

One morning I walked into the Huddle House near my home for breakfast and ordered scrambled eggs with Tabasco. Huddle House is not on my usual travel path; I typically visit the Waffle House. The happy-go-lucky waitress cheerfully announced, “Will Texas Pete be okay?”

Now, there is nothing wrong with Texas Pete pepper sauce except it is not hot. Her question was like asking a Coke fan, “Would Pepsi be okay instead?” The bad boy in me wanted to say, “Would Canadian money be okay instead?” since I had just returned from working in Toronto! But, I was nice. And, the breakfast was otherwise very good.

The next week I found myself again in the Huddle House, the guest of a colleague who enjoyed their omelets. The scene for me was an exact repeat of the last. The very good scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast was less than perfect since I had to have not-hot Texas Pete. But, my third visit was a complete delight. I was glad I gave them another try.

When I sat down and the waitress brought me my menu and a cup of black coffee before I requested it, she placed a brand new bottle of Tabasco sauce on my table and announced: “Were we keeping it on our shelf just in case you came back to see us again.” And, with that pronouncement, I saw the smile on the face of all the staff that had been a part this special hot sauce planning. I saw a happy gait in the pace of all the employees. And, I watched an obviously very poor customer who had only ordered coffee and a biscuit get his meal comped by the restaurant manager. I had before only noticed the wall signs and other customers.

The eye chart is an important source of diagnosis for all ophthalmologists. Tell the patient about a result more than 20-30 vision and the discussion usually goes to being fitted for glasses and undergoing Lasik surgery. Getting 20-20 on the eye chart test leaves a satisfied patient. But, watch the face of a patient who is told she or he has 20-15 or even 20-10 vision and you witness someone with bragging rights—a patient eager to tell everyone about his or her amazing eyes.

Customers examine your service through the lens of an “I-chart.” An I-chart is the gauge on the degree you personalize the customer’s experience. A restaurant without pepper sauce is a 20-30 experience; one I am not likely to repeat. One with Texas Pete is like a 20-20 experience—okay, but not great. But, remembering my preference and delivering it to me in such a delightful, whimsical manner was a 20-15 experience. And, I not only began to notice all the other service pleasures around me, I could not wait to brag to my friends about how the Huddle House had elevated my experience and captivated my heart.

Putting sprinkles on top of a cupcake or cookie turns a good treat into a special one. It is the same with personalized service. It says you care about your customers, not just about their repeat business. It telegraphs you enjoy making your customers happy. And, It transforms an eggs and bacon experience into a banquet of gourmet delights.

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