There was an old tobacco barn in the middle of a field on the farm where I grew up.  My dad needed another barn in which to store hay after a bumper crop year.  But the long abandoned barn had one problem–the roof leaked between the boards.  Getting fresh cut bales of hay wet means it would rot before wintertime when our cows depended on it for food.

Luckily, my dad was an excellent carpenter.  With a router and plane he turned the plain boards into ones with a tongue and grove.  We removed the old roof boards and replaced them with boards he had tongue and grooved thus interlocked in a way that prevent the rain from seeping into the barn.

Innovative service is tongue and grooved!  The grand piano in my living room came tailored to my keyboard touch; the stool adjustable to my height.  My fly rod came rigged for a right-handed angler.  My car lets me lock in the seat position and steering wheel adjusted to my comfort and has a different setting for my much shorter wife.  And, when a new wait staff member was understudying the person who normally waits on me at my favorite restaurant, I was amazed at many of my unique requests (neat on the rocks; fresh cut jalapenos, no bread, salad dressing on the side, etc.) were transmitted to the trainee without my prompting.

When the protrusion of customers’ unique hopes and needs get planted in the trough of a service provider’s offerings it creates a bond as tight and secure as the new roof on our hay barn.  It makes the customer waterproof to the elements offered by competitors.  And, the better the fit, the more that customer delight turns into customer advocacy.  Look for ways to tongue and grove your service.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Merv Stapleton