The Difference Between Good Customer Service and GREAT Customer Service

I’m always looking for the subtleties that differentiate good customer service from great customer service. And the difference usually is subtle. This example highlights that difference.

My son and his girlfriend were doing some grocery shopping, and one of the items on their list was a water filter for a sink. After a few minutes of searching, they approached a store employee for help. Let’s freeze the action at this “moment of truth.” Their interaction with the employee could’ve gone in one of four directions:

Option 1 – The employee says, “I’m not sure where the water filters are. If we carry them, they're probably on aisle six.” You then go off searching on your own – really just continuing the search you’ve already been on. This is the scenario, unfortunately, most customers have come to expect.

Option 2 – The employee says, “I’m pretty sure the filters are on aisle six, I’ll go with you to find them.” While certainly a better customer experience, most of us have been in the position of following a store employee up and down aisles we’ve already searched until ultimately finding the item or abandoning the search.

Option 3 – The employee says, “The filters are on aisle six, let me show you.” The employee walks you directly to the item.

Option 4 – (And this is what happened) – The store employee asked Danny and Nikki if they had more shopping to do, which they did. He said, “Tell me the type of filter you need, you go ahead and keep shopping, I’ll find it and find you.” Which he did. He delivered the filter and he let them know exactly where they could find filters in the future.

I’m glad my son shared this story with me because it showcases the possible customer responses to each of the four options:

- Option 1, of course, leads to frustration.

- Option 2 also leads to frustration, as well as a feeling of discomfort as the customer tags along behind the “scout.”

- Option 3 begins moving us in the right direction – to a feeling of appreciation.

- Option 4 takes the customer one step beyond a feeling of appreciation; it results in the customer being impressed.

Having a customer feeling appreciative is certainly good, and in many circumstances appreciation is the best we can hope for. But when a customer feels impressed with an employee’s efforts, it creates a memory (an “impression” – what a great word). Impressed customers are not only appreciative, they tell others about their experience. Just like my son did with me.

When my son shared this story with me, it reminded me of Walt Disney World’s “Take 5” initiative. Every Disney cast member is encouraged to take 5 minutes every day to do something extra special for a guest. The rest of the time, of course, Disney cast members are expected to perform at a high level, but at least once a day they are asked to take it to an even higher level. And with fifty-five thousand cast members working there, the result is a lot of impressed guests.

For me, that mindset is the difference between good customer service and GREAT customer service. Good customer service results in appreciative customers. Great customer service results in appreciative and impressed customers.

Something to think about: What's one action you can take today to impress a customer?