Sometimes, we experience truly amazing levels of customer service. We call it over-the-top, or above and beyond, or “WOW!” customer service.

Many of my clients tell me they want to consistently create that experience for their customers. My response is that it’s an unrealistic – even impossible – expectation. Over-the-top service usually happens with isolated incidents, either problems or complaints, or recognition of an opportunity to create such levels of service.

As an example, the Ritz-Carlton is known for its outstanding service. Their system is excellent, and their team is superbly trained. Employees recognize guests and call them by name. They pay attention to the details.

Everything they do is just a little above the norm, which makes them stand out and explains why they can charge premium dollars for staying in their hotel. So, why does the Ritz-Carlton get praise for their over-the-top, exceptional levels of customer service? It’s not because of what they do every day. It’s because of what they do once in a while.

I just read an amazing story about a family that was staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto. The kids were playing floor hockey in the hall when the hotel received a complaint from another guest. One of the Ritz-Carlton’s employees politely informed the kids’ parents that they couldn’t play hockey in the hallway. The parents understood and were happy to comply. Problem solved.

In most places, that is where the story would end, but this was the Ritz-Carlton. While the employee took care of the guest’s complaint, he also wanted to take care of the family that caused the complaint. So, he contacted the banquet staff who set up a floor hockey rink in one of the empty banquet rooms.

And, to take it a step further, some of the hotel employees decided to participate and challenge the family to a floor hockey game. The story goes on to say that the family won the game, but in the end, it’s the Ritz-Carlton that won. They scored in the column of loyalty and accolades. Talk about a Moment of Magic©.

This super-fantastic-over-the-top-above-and-beyond customer service story doesn’t happen every day. It only happens when employees spot opportunities. It’s easy to spot a problem when a customer comes to you with a complaint.

Yet spotting opportunities by just paying attention takes it to the next level. Maybe the customer shares the problem with a companion, but not the business. An attentive employee may overhear the complaint and surprise the customer by fixing it. Or maybe it isn’t a complaint.

I remember taking my daughter out for dinner on her birthday. We didn’t tell the server it was her birthday, but he overheard us talking about it and surprised us with a dessert, complete with a candle.

These types of incidents don’t happen during every customer interaction. In fact, they may not even happen frequently. They’re isolated opportunities, meaning it’s impossible to deliver that level of service every time. But that doesn’t mean you and your company can’t earn a stellar reputation.

All it takes is consistently being a little above average and a little better than expected. And, always be on the lookout for opportunities to turn complaints, or what appear to be ordinary interactions, into something extraordinary. Something that the customer will remember. Something that the customer will want to talk about.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips: