What Distinguishes Good from Great from Outstanding Customer Service?

I’m currently staying at the Danna Langkawi, a hotel that–at least according to its Trip Advisor reviews–should have outstanding customer service. I haven’t had what I consider an outstanding experience so far, which has made me think a bit about what I think makes service good vs great vs outstanding.

First, there’s a matter of expectations. This is true of most any experience, but often our enjoyment is based on how reality compares to our expectations. When expectations are exceeded, we’re generally happy; when expectations are not met, we’re generally unhappy. One reason why people (jokingly) say Danes are so happy is because they have low expectations of life! So coming into this hotel stay, I had very high expectations of the service, both because of the reviews I had read online as well as the price of the hotel (the cheapest rooms start at around $250-$300 per night, which is super pricey for Malaysia, and you can’t redeem points for it!).

But then there’s defining different levels of service itself. For me, good or competent service means that there generally shouldn’t be any basic lapses in service, and any lapses that do occur get addressed immediately and do not occur again. For example, if you’re sitting in first class on a plane or having a meal at a restaurant, your glass should never be empty, and you shouldn’t have to remind people to refill your glass. If you do have to remind people, then you shouldn’t be waiting for a long time for your refill, and the service should be more alert to make sure that it doesn’t happen again (if you do end up waiting, or your glass is repeatedly empty, I would not define this as good or competent service).

Great service is when there aren’t any lapses in service. There should be nothing that I can fault, and I should never have to bring anything specifically to the attention of the service unless I have unusual or special requests. I find that Cathay Pacific, for example, consistently offers great customer service.

Outstanding service means that there are no lapses in service, but there are special things about the service that delight you. Examples might be things that happen that you didn’t even know that you needed, but you appreciate once they’ve occurred (e.g. waking up from a nap on a plane to find your slippers repositioned so that you can slip them on more easily; greeting you by name the next day after only a passing interaction and remembering your preferences and proactively offering up something that you might like). Personality also plays a role in offering outstanding service, as some people are just absolutely delightful to interact with.

At the Danna, I’ve experienced multiple lapses in basic service, but they’ve all been addressed relatively quickly and haven’t reoccurred, so I’d describe the service here as good or competent. But I’m curious to hear how other people distinguish good from great from outstanding service and what examples others have of outstanding customer service.

One thought on “What Distinguishes Good from Great from Outstanding Customer Service?

  1. Steve

    My standard is fairly similar to yours. I do not feel a particular need to be wowed or have my posterior kissed in order to give a good review. Actually…if a place is trying too hard (usually in the form of being a pest inquiring if I need anything, etc), it may actually work counter to the intention. For hotels, give me a clean, quiet room and decent bedding. There’s not much else that I need. WiFi….almost forget that it’s almost a requirement to have reasonably fast WiFi.

    On a “scale of one to five”, a basic level of service will get a solid four. Going above and beyond what is expected is required to get you a five. Some issues will get you bumped down to a three. I very seldom give a two because if there are issues and they are not adequately remedied or the service is just rude, you deserve the one that I will be giving you.

    That said, I can count the “ones” I have given over the past two years on both hands. Maybe I am too easy going but that’s how it is.


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