Tag Archives: service

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.

Question for Readers: What is Good Service?

Instead of the typical answering reader questions, I’m instead posing a series of questions for readers to share their thoughts on this week.

I appreciate good service. But even as I write that, I think it’s ambiguous what I mean by “good service”. Is good service unobserved and unobtrusive? Is it fawning and obsequious? A service experience that I might enjoy another might find underwhelming for exactly the same reasons.

For me, good service is effortless and gracious. By effortless, I mean that service is so ingrained into the mentality that every request is considered and attended to (but not necessarily fulfilled) without hesitation. In the best examples, service is effortless because your needs are predicted and attended to even before you realize them. By gracious, I mean that there’s a sort of courtesy and pleasantness that makes every interaction a delight.

Here are examples of bad service that come to mind:
1) A flight attendant physically pushing people out of the way during meal service. She clearly made sure everyone knew how much of a burden her job was that she had to push people to finish it, and pushing people is definitely not gracious.
2) Flight attendants reading magazines/books or just chatting away with each other in the galley. They’re making it clear that any sort of service they provide takes so much effort because they have to interrupt themselves from whatever else they’d rather be doing instead of serving you.

Here are examples of good service that come to mind:
1) On a Cathay Pacific flight, the flight attendant noticed that I kept ordered Hong Kong style milk tea, so she proactively gave me some of the mix that they use to make the drink. This was already much appreciated, but at the end of the flight, she gave me even more as she had scoured the other galleys for their leftovers.
2) I once went to the United First Lounge at NRT instead of the ANA Suite Lounge so I could take some pictures for a lounge review. Upon checking into the United lounge, the lounge dragon told me that I was welcome to the United lounge, but I should really go to the ANA lounge instead. I made up some bs reason about wanting to use the United lounge because I liked the showers there better, and when I took the elevator up one level to the United First Lounge, the agent there greeted me and immediately offered me to take me to the shower room.

So I’m curious, what does good service mean to you? What examples come to mind of particularly good or bad service?