I walk a few half-marathons each year and having the proper shoes is a necessity. Prior to participating in this sport, my shoe selection was based on style and price only. But now things are different: The fit matters more than anything else.

The fitness store where I now purchase shoes has a process from which they never depart. They measure your feet and watch you walk barefooted. They ask a few questions about what event you are preparing for and how hard you are training. They ask about your existing pair of shoes and what you like or don't like about them. Next, they select several pairs of shoes and escort you outside where they watch you run up the street and then make adjustments accordingly. When you leave you have a pair of shoes that fit perfectly.

I have referred no fewer than 20 people to this fitness store.

The ready-mix industry in general provides an experience the opposite of what I've just described—a generic one. In many cases "order takers" give the customer what he asks for—and sometimes miss what the customer really needs.

Changing the name of "dispatch" to "customer service" is a nice first step. However, providing an upgraded experience through knowledge is the point at which the experience transitions from generic to specific—and that's when customers will refer you.

How do we get there? Hire people who work well with others and then teach them the industry. Educate them about the "experience" you want your customers to have. Teach them to diagnose, to fill in the blanks when the customer lacks knowledge, and prevent the customer from making mistakes with their order. Great service goes beyond order taking—a robot can do that.  Great service is putting your customers in the right pair of shoes and them loving the experience.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Telephone 513-793-9582 or emailjoan@joanfox.com.