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The Difference between Good Customer Service and Great Customer Service




Glenn Shepard



September 2, 2014



Customer Service

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Dear Glenn,


I loved your article on self actualization, but it sounds familiar. Do you ever reprint articles???


Laura in Buffalo, NY



Dear Laura,


Yes indeed. As my friend and colleague Pat McGaughey says, repetition is the key to learning.  

     If a topic is still relevant, we'll reprint articles after at least three years have passed.

     Last week's article was originally published in 2006, which means:


A. You have a good memory.


B. You've been reading and paying attention for at least eight years.


Kudos to you for both! Thanks for your question.


Glenn in Nashville, TN

Click the red button to submit a question. If yours is selected, you'll win your choice of the "I'm the Boss, Not the Babysitter" or "Work Is Not for Sissies"  coffee mug.

Good customer service is rare; great customer service is even more rare.


The flipside to this is that in the world where customer service is so lacking, even the smallest things can make you stand out above the crowd – if you know the difference between good and great customer service.


Good customer service is responding to a customer’s needs when they arise. Great customer service is responding to a customer’s needs before they arise.


Here are three examples of great service I experienced in the last week.


Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant

Brentwood, TN

While we were having lunch at Chuy’s after church, the server brought out my Diet Coke, and two iced teas for my beautiful bride. She told him she only ordered one. He then explained that he wasn’t sure if she wanted sweet or unsweet, so he brought both to make sure she got what she wanted.


Compare that to another nearby restaurant that brought her sweet tea the last three times we were there, and you can understand why we quit going to the other restaurant – even though they had good food.


Capital One

I received an email asking if several transactions on my Visa card were valid. While that's not unusual for a credit card company, Capitol One has two large buttons that are easy to read.


The bright blue one reads “EVERTHING’S OK”, and the bright red one reads “THERE’S AN ISSUE”.


Simple as that sounds, it keeps me from having to magnify the screen and read  hyperlinks in tiny blue text to determine which one to click. This is especially helpful for me since I’m legally blind without contact lenses.


But it’s also helpful to anyone with 20/20 vision that needs reading glasses, and struggles to make out tiny text on a small smart phone screen.


American Airlines

After boarding my flight out of Chicago Midway, the plane didn’t move. The pilot announced that they were having a problem with his oxygen mask, that the mechanic was working on it, and that he would give us an update as soon as she returned.


The mechanic returned but was unable to fix the problem, and the pilot announced that she went to get a replacement valve and he'd give us another update soon. When the valve didn't work, he announced that we would deboard the plane so that we could be comfortable in the terminal instead of sitting on the plane while they figured out what to do.


After deboarding, he came out to the gate and announced that they’d let us know by 1:00 whether we’d reboard, or get another plane. At about 12:30, he announced that we had another plane.


Not one of the over 100 passengers complained about the inconvenience, because the pilot handled it so well. I can’t count how many times I’ve been stuck on a grounded plane for an hour or more, not knowing what the delay was or how much longer it would be, and watched passengers become more and more impatient as they demanded to know what exactly what was going on.


These were completely different circumstances, but each was a perfect example of great customer service because they addressed problems before customers even knew there was a problem.


Customers will forget what you say and what you do, but they'll never forget how you made them feel. Each of these companies made the customers feel like they were paying attention, cared about the customer, and were taking care of the customer.



To Your Success,



Glenn Shepard




P.S.  The next time you’re at a fast food restaurant, watch what happens when the cashier calls an order number for pickup. Everyone will look at their receipts but no one can read the number because it’s so small and buried along with the amount, address, etc. McDonald’s gets the gold star on this one. Their order numbers are printed in a font that’s about a hundred times larger than everything else on the receipt. It's a tiny detail that makes a big difference.





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