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When was the last time you sent flowers to someone who delivered great service?

A wonderful article from my friend Sean Carpenter this week reminded me of the power of testimonials and referrals. As Carpenter points out,

 It doesn’t matter what you wear to work that determines whether you’re good at your job. It’s all about your attitude and passion for products you sell, services you provide and community and customers you serve.

There’s lots of talk these days about delivering great service to customers. Often it seems harder to come by. Brand specialists say the “experience” matters most. Especially if we want loyal, repeat customers – or better – their referrals to friends and family.

These days, “referring” comes in new shapes and sizes. Happy tweets happen moments after great experiences. Reviews by real people on Amazon and Yelp are powerful sale-inducers. Personal endorsements on LinkedIn or Facebook offer new ways to create word of mouth. It’s wonderful to see so many ways great service can be rewarded in the modern era.

Of course, you can still send flowers.

If you think about it, the purpose of a referral is to say: I enjoyed working with you so, I’d like to see more of it. I encourage you to keep delivering great experiences, to me and then to my friends. A referral is a thank you as much as a please keep doing it! gesture.

That’s why I often send flowers.

Or chocolates, or a Starbucks card or just a little something extra, to anyone who delivers great experiences. It’s my way of supporting and promoting more of them. For me, great service begins by being a great customer, too.

A recent example: After moving to Las Vegas, I had to register my car. The registry wanted a copy of my actual lease, because of some technicality. While sitting at the DMV, I called the leasing company, who happily offered to send it by mail in 21 days. I couldn’t wait that long, so I called the original Acura dealership in Massachusetts. I explained to someone named Marla that I was sitting at the registry, and would be-ever-so-appreciative it if she could send me a copy of my lease. The catch: I needed it within the next few minutes.

No problem, she replied. True to her word, five minutes later I got both, and completed my registration.

The next day, I looked her up online, and sent her some flowers.

Sure, maybe I’m just a nice customer; but consider: Why can’t customers deliver great experiences, too?  As customers, we’re quick to complain about bad service, but we infrequently think about our role in positive transactions. Yes, I know, we’re paying and we deserve great service and all that jazz, but at the very least, when we get great service, we should recognize it just a little bit more than paying the bill.

That’s why my new favorite button on Facebook is the Send Gift feature: coffee, cookies, flowers, gift cards, etc. You can send them for birthdays or thank-you’s, publicly or privately. The cool idea isn’t that Facebook is monetizing its membership. It’s the opportunity for using Facebook as a platform to inspire positive outcomes – as a customer as well as a vendor.

It’s the idea that Facebook might emerge as a platform for praise.

Consider how sending small gifts would totally shock people or companies you follow online! Suddenly you’re not just a paying customer: You’re the most delightful customer! It’s not simply self-serving: When you praise publicly, you change the culture a tiny little bit. Other people see it happen online, just as they see a real vase of flowers on someone’s desk. Social gifts move us further from a nation of complainers, closer to a nation of praisers.

Imagine if Yelp or TripAdvisor weren’t quite so full of complaints….

Social praise can nurture and create the outcomes we desire; people who receive recognition are more likely to repeat the actions that caused it. I imagine the vase of flowers on Marla’s desk today is causing lots questions from her peers. How nice to think that her response to why? might be because a customer wants me to keep doing the right thing!  Better still, how delightful it her peers take that visible lesson to heart, and add it to their actions as well.

Alas, we all complain now and then; but at the very least, I like to think I balance mine out with a few vases of flowers. As social media has grown up, so have I. The lesson I’ve learned is that building people up is the best way to get create the world I want to live in.

If you want great service in the future, a few daisies now and then might just do wonders.