What sets a company apart from the competitors? A legendary CEO? An competitive advantage on price or marketing? Probably, but there are also other companies that win big by focusing on tiny little things. DoubleTree (which I've discussed previously) and Singapore Airlines are two examples.

I flew a Singapore Airlines flight from LAX (Los Angeles) to NRT (Tokyo) last week for vacation. The airline was able to touch my heart in small ways.

When I made the reservation, I purposefully picked a window seat that was available because I did not want to be disturbed by other passengers sitting on the same row. In addition, I thought having an assigned seat beforehand would help the airline staff speed up the check-in process.

After I handed my passport to the airline agent, however, I was asked: "Dr. Kwok, are you going to use a laptop during the flight?"

I was wondering why this was even a relevant question, but I indeed brought a laptop with me and planned to use it on my way to Tokyo. So, I answered: "Yes, most likely. Why?"

"The seat you picked happened to have some issues with the electronic outlet, and because you will be using a laptop, would you mind if I find another seat for you?" the agent responded.

"I guess I don't mind, but would that be a window seat? I also do not want to sit all the way in the back," I told the agent.

The agent said: "No problem, Dr. Kwok. It will still be a window seat, but it will be just a few seats behind what you had reserved. The new seat I am giving you has an electronic outlet that works. However, if you don't think you need to use an electronic outlet, you may keep the seat you have already reserved."

I switched the seat and got onto the plane. The coach cabin looked about the same as those of other airlines flying from North America to Asia. So, it is not difficult to imagine how much room I had for a regular window seat in the coach cabin.

To make it worse, the passenger sitting in front me pushed her seat all the way back as soon as the plane took off. I was almost hit by the screen on the back of her seat. I had to push my seat backward to get more room, but I found this to be a less-than-comfortable position in which to work.

Soon, the flight attendants began serving dinner. I was about to ask the passenger in front of me to pull her seat forward a little bit so that I would have more room for the meal. Before I even opened my mouth this time, the flight attendant had asked the passenger in front of me to push her seat forward. The passenger did what the attendant suggested, and I was able to enjoy the dinner better (likewise for the breakfast).

The flight landed safely and on time in NRT. I was one of many happy customers on the plane who got off with a smile. I was also impressed with the staff's ability to “read” my mind.

Was it a coincidence? Was I just so lucky to meet the staff who cares about customer service? I don't think so. It takes a friendly and well-trained staff to anticipate customers' needs, regardless of how small a need may seem. And because the company employs staff who takes good care of customers' small needs, Singapore Airlines has always been rated high in customer satisfaction and voted as a top carrier in the world.

In fact, focusing on tiny, little things is probably not the only key factor for a successful business, but most certainly, all great companies are doing well in taking good care of customers' tiny, little needs. If a company (or a person) cannot handle small tasks well, how would the company (or the person) be able to deliver big results?

From your experience, which company had provided impeccable service that impressed you? Was it something big or small that touched your heart?