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?

11 Responses to “The Difference Between Good Customer Service and GREAT Customer Service”

  1. What a great story about customer service – option 4 was something totally unexpected! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Dennis!

    Looked up your site from “Top 10 Customer Service Blogs” – good, practical advice (with no sales pitch) is hard to find!

    Hope you’ll look into our blog:

    Keep up the great pots!


  3. Hi Dennis Good solid practical advice as always. It’s sometimes hard to chunk down from the big idea to the associated (and specific) behaviours that will make it happen.

  4. Thought provoking as always, Dennis. It reminded me of one of the finest examples of community oriented policing I’ve ever seen:

    An elderly lady had come to our police department several times to report that during the previous night someone had thrown rocks onto the roof of her trailer, waking and scaring her. When we explained that the best solution would be to call us to the residence during the event, she said that she didn’t have a phone and therefore had to wait until daylight to ask for help. Most people who don’t have phones still tend to have phone jacks, and everyone gets 911 access for free regardless of their phone service situation. Knowing this, I sent one of my officers to see if we could give her a cheap phone so that she could call emergency services at the time they were needed.

    That officer, Sgt. Tim Kelley, surprised me when he said that she did not, in fact, have a single phone jack in her home. Out of compassion for the lady and a desire to actually solve her problem, he asked a local cell service provider to donate an old cellphone to her. They gladly did, throwing in a free (new) charger to boot!

    Sgt. Kelley’s compassion and commitment to service excellence went far beyond what many officers would have been willing to do. He took common sense steps to actually solve a problem instead of shifting the resposibility back to our customer.

    Chief Lance Crowe
    Travelers Rest Police Department, SC

  5. Nice post I actually read the whole thiing….

  6. Dennis, what an exceptional example of customer service at its best! If only more businesses and their employees would take this to heart. It’s the extra steps that aren’t necessarily required that make a big difference in experience and loyalty. This article ( points out how simple measures, such as the one you’ve described, can help a company’s star shine without costing more.

  7. I want to go to this store! I live in Dublin, Ireland and the philosophy here is for the Customer to self serve. e.g. they have checkouts that you scan and pay for things yourself. This wouldn’t such a bad idea, if it were used to free up staff to be available for Customers. Unfortunately this is not the case. It is just used as a cost cutting measure. The stores think they are doing us a favor by “letting” us do our own scanning and payment, but in fact, there are less staff than ever and you end up having to soend a lot of time trying to find someone to help you. All we want is great value and great Customer service. It’s not that much to ask!

  8. Steve, we have the same issue in the U.S. with self-serve checkout technology. I do use it sometimes, but like you, I’d rather have people who can help me at the moment I need help. Thanks for your comment!

  9. This is a great article. However the companies policies have to allow you to give great customer service. Here in Toronto over Christmas I worked for a shoe company that set up a warehouse sale. When a lady asked me where he womens flip flops where I walked her over. A manager then told me to never leave my own section (it took less then 3 seconds). Lots of people want to give great customer service but the company policies have to allow it. I think too often front line employees are trained to be robots and do the exact same thing no matter what the situation.

  10. […] it. Challenge yourself and your employees to think of ways to impress your patrons. – Dennis, The Difference Between Good Customer Service and GREAT Customer Service, Dennis Snow […]

  11. Holy Todeol, so glad I clicked on this site first!

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