The key word to etch in your mind, insists Rogers, is "remember." Remember the dress that needs special handling for your regular dry cleaning customer without her having to remind you. (You can note this on your computer or on a 3-by-5 card you make for each customer.) Remember the occasion that prompted your flower shop customer to buy a bouquet so next year you can send a reminder that you'd be happy to send one again. Remember the rattle in the wheel well that your gas station customer was complaining about last time he or she was in, and ask about it the next time that customer comes in for a tune-up. Remember to ask your plumbing customer if that upstairs sink is still leaking and if he or she would like you to take a look at it.
Just as a doctor writes down details of a patient's health on his or her chart, so should you record information about your clients. Then the next time you connect with a client in person or by e-mail (you are routinely asking for their e-mail addresses, aren't you?), ask how the customer's daughter is doing in her first year of college, inquire about that nagging lower lumbar problem he or she previously mentioned, ask if he or she has been happy with that new sport utility vehicle . . . Well, you get the idea. In this increasingly impersonal world, every me-to-you query adds strength to a customer relationship that no amount of discounting from your competitor can weaken.