A friend of mine recently told me about their bad experience at a restaurant. The server was very nice and extremely apologetic about the problems that happened throughout the evening—but there were still problems. The food took a long time to get to the table. When it got there, it wasn’t prepared properly. On the next attempt, the food came out uncooked. The drinks were mixed up. And there were a few other issues, too. The manager came over and apologized profusely. Finally, it was time to pay the check. When my friend opened the leather portfolio there wasn’t a check. Instead, there was a note that read, “Thank you.” When my friend inquired about the check, the manager apologized again and said, “We hold ourselves to a high standard. You shouldn’t have to pay for anything less. We hope you give us another chance.” I’m always impressed when people and companies stand behind their product. Knowing that is something akin to a “money-back guarantee.” They don’t have to have a sign that says, “If for any reason you are unhappy, you don’t have to pay,” because they hold themselves to a certain standard. If they don’t hit it, they take it upon themselves to correct it. For the restaurant, that meant taking care of an experience that completely went wrong. It wasn’t just one meal that was bad. It was one thing after another that created a bad experience. Before I go further, I want to touch on something—that the restaurant took care of the entire check. I don’t always agree with that philosophy—giving something away for free to correct a bad experience. While there are times that may be appropriate, usually a good attitude, an apology and a quick fix can make things right. If you’re feeling inclined to give away something for free, consider giving it when the customer comes back as a thank you. Back to the lesson. It’s about meeting a standard… your standard. For this to work, your standard must be higher than your customers’. That’s not always easy, as the customer’s perception of what is right belongs to them, not you. You may think you deliver the best service and experience in the world, but if your customer doesn’t agree, then you fail regardless of how good you think you are. That’s why you must hold yourself to a high standard and have a plan when that standard is not met—according to either you or your customer. That might mean a metaphorical “free meal,” a discount on future purchasing or some other remedy to unmet standards. I’ll leave that decision to you, but for now, ask yourself what your standard is. Do you have it in writing? Do your employees know it? Do they honor and meet it? The first step to living up to your standard is creating it. Make it one you, your employees, and your customers can take pride in.