I visited a favorite restaurant last week, a place that, alas, I hadn't been to in months. The waiter remembered that I don't like cilantro. Unasked, she brought it up. Incredible. This was uncalled for, unnecessary and totally delightful.
Scott Adams writes about the cyborg tool that is coming momentarily, a device that will remember names, find connections, bring all sorts of external data to us the moment we meet someone. "Oh, Bob, sure, that's the guy who's friends with Tracy… and Tim just tweeted about him a few minutes ago."
The first time someone does this to you in conversation (no matter how subtly), you're going to be blown away and flabbergasted. The tenth time, it'll be ordinary, and the 20th, boring.
Hotels used to get a lot of mileage out of remembering what you liked, but it was merely a database trick, not emotional labor on the part of the staff.
Today, if you go to an important meeting and the other people haven't bothered to Google you and your company, it's practically an offense. We're about to spend an hour together and you couldn't be bothered to look me up? It's expected, no longer amazing.
On the other hand, consider Dolores, a clerk with kidney problems at a 7 Eleven, who broke all sorts of coffee sales records because she remembered the name of every customer who came in every morning. Unexpected and amazing.
You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it's getting raised regardless.
[Irrelevant aside: Linchpin made the New York Times bestseller list yesterday. The list is hand tweaked, unreliable and often wrong, but it's still a great thing to have happen the first week a book is out. Thank you to each of you who pitched in and spread the word. Unexpected and amazing, both.]