I recently stopped to order some lunch to-go at an Asian deli that is newly opened and not too far away from me. Bethany and I had been there to eat-in once before and were blown away by the quality of the food as well as the general vibe of the staff. The Pad Thai was so good that we had been thinking about it ever since.

I walked in and was greeted warmly by the kind young man behind the counter. I placed my order and gave him my card to pay. As he was running it through I mentioned we had been in before and how much we enjoyed the Pad Thai. He mentioned that it must have been when he was not there because he remembers every face, which I confirmed was indeed the case. He let me know that it would be ready soon, directed me to a comfortable place to sit with reading material, and offered me a glass of water while I waited.

I sat down, pulled out my iPhone, fired up Instapaper, and waited. Not more than ten minutes had passed and, as he was delivering another order, he stopped to apologize for the wait (what wait?) and that my order would be ready as soon as possible. I let him know that all was cool with me (like I said, what wait?) no distress needed. Less then five minutes later he called me up for my order. Before handing it to me he placed a can of soda in the bag and proceeded to explain that he was sorry for the wait, that normally they are much faster, and the free soda was to make up for that.

It was less then 15 minutes between placing my order and having it in hand.

I did not feel like I waited an inordinately long time. I displayed no sense of urgency, either as I ordered (as the casual conversation I was striking up denotes) nor as I waited (Instapaper, FTW!!!). Therefore, his sense of urgency and expectations were not being set by me, the customer. And that’s when it hit me.

Greatness comes when one sets standards for their own results that are far higher then anyone expects and they strive to meet those consistently.

This young man obviously had a standard he set for service that was far higher then I had placed upon him. When he felt he had not met it, he let me know that. While it was not beneath my expectations, it was his and he apologized and compensated where appropriate. In fact, if he maintains this, he will likely never have a customer that can’t be satisfied.

It was more than great Pad Thai that won this business a customer for life in me. It was also more than a free can of soda. It was this lesson in greatness that I will now take and apply wherever I can.