When a potential client of mine inquired about having me speak about customer service at his company’s annual meeting, my response surprised him. After chatting with him about the meeting, I not only turned down the offer to speak, I recommended a colleague of mine that I felt would be a better fit. The client was quite surprised that I would be so willing to turn business over to a competitor. While I will admit that I refer to my competition as “friendly competition,” even “colleagues,” it is still turning business away and referring someone else.

Why would I do this? Three reasons:

  1. It was the right thing to do: I wasn’t a good fit for this specific event. The success of the client’s event was at stake, and I wasn’t about to be the reason he didn’t meet his goals.
  2. I am confident in my business and services: If I care more about the client’s success than that one booking, the client will eventually care enough to bring me in when it is a good fit.
  3. It’s just good customer service: I put the customer’s needs ahead of mine. That’s what the best customer-focused companies realize that, long-term, the customer will come back.

One of the best examples of this was shared by Jay Baer, the author of Youtility. In a recent presentation he mentioned that Hilton, the hotel chain, monitors social media channels for opportunities to engage with their customers and guests. This particular interaction came over Twitter when a person tweeted out that he was looking for a good restaurant in his area.

@LTHughston: Good places to eat near the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas for Saturday?

@Hilton Suggests: Wild Salsa on Main or Campisi’s on Elm are awesome. Both within walking distance from your hotel in #Dallas. Enjoy!

What makes this a great example is that the customer isn’t a guest of a Hilton, yet Hilton is still willing to take the time to respond and engage. The restaurants they suggested aren’t their own hotel restaurants, and who knows if that person will ever be a guest of a Hilton hotel? It doesn’t matter. It’s about creating good will and having the confidence to recommend the competition.

Are you confident enough to recommend your competition? In the right situation, it is simply good customer service.

This article first appeared on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog and was written by Shep Hyken. You can read the full version here.