Today I’ve been doing a little desk research into the businesses who are really innovating in customer service. Interestingly, the ones who win the awards aren’t always the guys making things great for their customers.

‘Customer service innovators’ seem to get awards for “increased cross sell”, “single view of customer” and “enveloping the customer in a technology ecosystem” (yes, honestly).

Is this really customer service?

Is this what makes people come back again and again? For those of us with service ‘otaku’ (a term used by a self-confessed service-obsessive Seth Godin) it’s not what makes us tick.

The flight stewardess who entertained someone’s baby on the flight when the mom wasn’t feeling well. The pub owner who drew a map and printed off directions from his pub to his customer’s next meeting. The CEO who personally called an unhappy customer and sent a bunch of flowers to apologise.

These are just a few of the stories that I read on the web in the last week. None of them won official awards. But all of them got commented on in forums, blogged about and tweeted. They’re what makes your business special. These are the things that you “bake” into the heart of your business and make you proud each time they happen. Focusing on making these moments happen, and celebrating them when they do, is the key to building a service culture, a remarkable business and a loyal (and vocal) customer base.

Bob Burg argues this very persuasively in his recent blog post “yes, the little things really matter” where he recounts several small issues with hotels he’d stayed at recently that make him think the “fabric” of their operations was a little flawed. They probably all had fabulous CRM systems, but those systems completely failed (and probably still have no idea) that he’s unhappy with a few experiences.

If you want offer remarkable service in your business, you need a way of knowing when your customers are unhappy, and when they’re delighted, in real time. so you can take immediate action. Most customers will happily share their bad (and good)experiences with you, but you do need to make it a part of your day-to-day operations.

That’s where Customer Thermometer comes in. How about sending the people who stayed in your hotel a “1 click” email to ask them how they felt about their stay, the day after they stayed there. Just 1 click needed from your customers, and you’ll know what they think. It takes them less than 2 seconds to respond. And it takes less than 10 minutes for you to set it up.