Prices are up on everything. We all know that too well. As much as we’d like to just stop buying things, there are still things we need, whether for our homes or our jobs. So here’s a question that you’ve heard before: when the prices of everything you buy—from groceries to glass–have gone up, how do you decide where to shop?

If you say “customer service,” you’re not wrong. Good customer service is essential to taking care of your clients and customers. But, when everyone, everywhere is dealing with so many challenges, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Let me give you an example.

My son just started sixth grade. He has attended this school since kindergarten and they follow a unique grading system. Instead of getting an A, B, C, or D (and so on), they receive E, M, W and N. These scores stand for exceeding expectations, mastered expectations, working toward mastering expectations, not meeting expectations.

Here are some great visuals to better show what these grades mean. Imagine four kids, each riding a bicycle. The first kid not only rides the bike well but does tricks, spins and flips—clearly exceeding the expectations to be able to ride a bike. The second child rides the bike well and rides unassisted; this child has mastered riding a bike but doesn’t do anything fancy. The third child rides ok, but still falls off sometimes and might need some assistance getting started; this child is working on learning to ride. The fourth child still has training wheels on the bike and needs a lot of assistance.

How are you are riding your bike? Are you exceeding customer expectations or still working toward that?

Here’s one more example. We had a very nice Contigo brand water bottle. I liked it a lot because it had a flip-top lid that you could lock so it couldn’t drip water if it toppled over. Unfortunately, the lid broke. I don’t recall exactly what happened, but we couldn’t fix it. The bottle part was fine, so I decided to go online to see if I could buy a replacement lid. I checked the company’s website and Amazon, but couldn’t find the exact lid I needed. So I decided to reach out to Contigo directly and ask because you don’t know unless you ask.

I filled in their customer service form explaining what happened and uploaded a picture of the bottle in need of a lid. I asked if I could possibly purchase a replacement lid.

I’ve filled in online customer service forms before from other companies. Some of them are still waiting for answers; others send a response within a week or two. I heard back from Contigo within a couple of days. I couldn’t believe the response.

It was the nicest customer service reply I’ve ever received. Sherrylyn apologized for the delay (it was only two days) and that I was upset by the situation with my bottle. “Please allow me to make this right for you,” she wrote. She explained that the lid for my bottle was no longer available and that she would send me a replacement bottle. She then said I could keep the old bottle as a spare or dispose or recycle it. She then gave me the website which offers information on recycling.

She explained their product stock levels change rapidly, so I might not get the exact bottle and it might be something comparable that was readily available.

Wow! I was so overwhelmed with customer service I emailed them back to say thank you and let them know how much I appreciate their attending to the matter.

A few days later my replacement bottle arrived. And again, I was blown away because not only did they send me the new bottle (which is the newer model of the one I had), they sent me two bottles. This company did more than meet my expectations; they popped the wheelie of all bike tricks and exceeded my expectations.

So, again, how are you riding your bike? Take a look at your own systems and operations and grade yourself. What grade do you get?