Early last week while working in Bentonville, Ark., I rented a car from a rental company that I use occasionally, but certainly not often. I have no loyalty to any particular one as I have been unimpressed by all of them.

When it was time to return to the airport, the weather was hazardous. The drenching rain was continuous, tornado watches were in effect and the visibility back to the airport was minimal. Painstakingly, I made my way to the outdoor return lot.

As I slowly pulled my car into the lot, a man motioned to me to bring the car forward and then he made a hand gesture for me to stay in the car. He scanned something on my windshield and quickly ran to a small booth. Momentarily he darted back to my car and signaled for me to put my window down. I was handed my soaked receipt as he said, “Pop the trunk and stay in the car.” He then lifted the luggage from the trunk, and exclaimed, “Now, let’s go.” I immediately got out of the vehicle. What he did next was extraordinary — he took his rain jacket off and put it over my head. With my luggage in tow he ran to a side security entrance, opened the door and we darted inside. I expressed my complete appreciation and he left.

Two days later I was in Las Vegas presenting a keynote speech on ‘Legendary Customer Service.’ Having not forgotten my rainy day rental experience, I opened the talk with my story about Avis. And now, via this article, I’m relaying the story again.

Stories are powerful vehicles. They can promote and escalate your company’s service brand or massively damage it. Many of the world’s best customer service brands as Disney, Ritz Carlton, and Zappos have stories told about them all the time — great stories.

It is important to know that this kind of enthusiastic press is a consequence of an exceptional customer experience. Producers who surprise customers in positive ways can gain a powerful advantage. Stories are told and retold. Are you focused on delivering a customer experience so fabulous that the news will get around? Or is the story a negative one — late delivery, wet load, driver washed out in the wrong spot? It’s your choice.

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