As competition continues to separate the service champions from the pretenders, you cannot be complacent with your customer service approach. Finding ways to stand apart from others is one way to ensure your ascension rather than decline.

Last year, an entrepreneur friend proposed a theory about customer service that he had been thinking about for a while. Together, we conducted a yearlong deep dive that resulted in what we call “The Unexpected.”

Simply put, rather than strive to meet or exceed expectations by going above and beyond, you must build cultures where your team knows how to identify opportunities to deliver what’s not expected and create surprise and delight in your customers when it is appropriate to do so.

This philosophy won’t replace an existing focus on customer service. Rather, it enhances what you’re doing in every facet of the customer’s experience. Implemented correctly, team members are empowered to find ways to take world-class service to the next level.

The Unexpected comprises four key components, and properly delivered, it becomes:

Memorable: People remember something that is experiential. The extraordinary experience, itself, is ingrained in their memories, becoming inclusionary parts of the stories they relate to others. In essence, this is the what of The Unexpected. Think of it as the moment when the legend was created.

Distinguishable: Because The Unexpected is memorable, people remember the organization — or person — who delivers it as uniquely qualified to do so. This serves to boost a brand and acts as a differentiator when it comes to comparing two companies that provide similar services within the same market space.

Viral: Everybody loves a story. The Unexpected offers a great opportunity to tell one. Technology has changed the rules, and instead of telling the story to small groups or one-on-one, people spread the word in an instant.

Profitable: As we move toward an economy where standard — or even world-class customer service — is your price of entry, only those companies that deliver The Unexpected will be able to command premium pricing for their goods and services.

My co-conspirator and I have outlined specific and detailed methodology in a soon-to-be-published book, which any organization can follow to deliver The Unexpected — without breaking the bank and by training existing team members — but that is a story for another day.

Dustin Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business Network Inc.

Published in Akron/Canton