I have a bit of a reputation (well-earned, I might add) of being a stickler for superior customer service.

My philosophy is if I’m shelling out my money for something, I expect good/great/excellent service in return. Here are two recent polar opposites.

My wife bought a floor-model TV from a well-known north-suburban Chicago mega-electronics/appliances retailer. The TV ended up having volume issues. The first time their phone customer service was great and helped supposedly fix the problem until it happened again a month later. This time, the dude on the phone says I can either wait a week for a service call or bring it back and exchange it for a new one.

But we bought a floor model, I told him. Dude on phone says, “Not a problem, it shows we have them in stock.”

Stupid me drives almost an hour to the place in the snow on a Saturday. Guess what? No television. We bought the floor model, the customer-service counter guy reminds me.

As my blood pressure begins to ascend, I see a sign in the customer-service department that says something to the effect of, “Any reasonable request, the answer is yes.” I wanted a replacement television, as promised, and didn’t want to pay a cent more. Sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it?

Apparently not. After mowing through the customer-service clerk, the customer-service manager, a sales associate (I could have the next model up for $300 more, he tells me with a straight face) and then a mysterious behind-the-curtain manager I never saw, I got my replacement television (that newer model) and the wallet never came out of the back pocket.

Was it worth it to anger a customer by being inflexible after your company made an error? I asked the upselling sales associate. He didn’t have an answer, but instead made sure to tell me how they “really bent over backwards for me.” To quote former Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia — wait, I can’t quote him. Two of the three words I want to use are profanities. You get the picture.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the fast-food joint Chic-fil-A, which my daughter enjoys (me, not so much anymore). We recently barreled through the drive-thru on one of those child-has-800-activities-to-get-to nights to order her some grilled chicken nuggets (healthier than the regular ones, the fifth-grader tells her daddy).

The person at the drive-thru window explains the fresh batch of healthier nuggets isn’t quite ready yet and to pull to the customer waiting spot. Cool. A kid comes out shortly after with the healthier nuggets and, without prompting, presents a gift card for a free coffee (for us having to wait).

I told him I didn’t drink coffee. He says hang tight. A minute later he comes out with two more gift cards. Choose one, a free breakfast or free lunch/dinner. I took the latter. More healthy nuggets in our future.

A simple gesture goes a long way and two customers left happy and, quite frankly, impressed. Good customer service is alive and well.

How would you rate your customer-service levels? Is any reasonable request a yes?

In this issue, I encourage you to check out a pair of stories that hit home the importance of next-level customer service. My annual look at the master distribution industry on Page 26 has a common theme — it is imperative now more than ever to meet and exceed increasing customer expectations in that space.

Part 2 of my annual, exclusive distributor roundtable interview conducted each year at ASA’s NETWORK event also underscores the importance of being on top of things, whether it’s e-commerce or the next unknown threat to our industry.

 But company excellence spans much further than just customer service. A week after this issue went to print, ASA held one of its most important meetings ever in Southern California where volunteer leaders presented three strategic-action plans to the ASA board that will tackle the workforce shortage, the ever-changing technology landscape and provide distributors a roadmap to take their businesses to the next level if they choose based on where they fall on a four-category spectrum (check the March issue for full coverage).

These strategic-action plans were developed with the end goal of helping the modern-day distributor thrive in an ever-changing and challenging marketplace where customer expectations are through the roof.

Sounds like an excellent plan of attack to me.