So….What’s So Hard About Creating Good Customer Experiences?

by Bill Gessert

ICSA President

The one thing we all have in common is that we are consumers.  We go to the grocery store and buy food.  We go to the dry cleaner and have our clothes cleaned.   We buy gas.  Someone will even someone pump it for us if we are filling up in New Jersey!  We go out to eat, and there is a server there to take care of us.  We travel….wow….how many “service” people touch us when you travel??!!

So my question to you is really simple.  How much of that service is….good?  I am guessing not so much. 

I am a consumer.  When I go out to eat….travel…shop…no one knows that I serve as President of the International Customer Service Association.  If they did, I am guessing their service would be VERY different.  But they don’t….and sadly, it is not.

That makes the people who do provide good service really stand out in my mind. 

Take the guy at the Apple store who after he checked to see if they had yet replaced the pads on the bottom of my MacBookPro, upon learning they had not after a full 70 minutes…just did it himself in ten minutes!  Nice job Adam!  Thanks for the great service.

Or like the small business owner of “Runner’s High” in Metuchen, NJ who takes the time to ask about my running style, my weekly mileage, what hurts, what doesn’t, and then makes shoe recommendations based on that information and NOT on which shoe brings him the best profits.   He also won’t let me buy a pair of shoes until I lace them up and head out of his store to take them on a “test drive.”  That, is great service and an outstanding customer experience!

Or even the dude at the Kiosk in the mall selling a variety of flavored popcorn who went well out of his way to refill my tin telling me to go shop while he took care of it.  And when I returned, he had packed an additional bag of my favorite flavor at no charge, just because he appreciated my business. 

These are examples of good service.  They are real.  They are just WAY too infrequent.  So my question is, why?  Why, when the world should know that good customer service can clearly separate one company from the next, why doesn’t every company provide exceptional service?  Are the above examples just random…accidental…the result of just three individuals who actually care?

Are the poor experiences many of us have as customers systemic to our society in general? 

Do companies just not care enough to take the steps necessary to ensure positive customer experiences on a consistent basis?

Do front line service providers just not care enough?  Are they not rewarded enough? Have they not received the right training? Is no one developing them?

I have plenty of thoughts about all of this, but this blog is intended to be a forum for sharing.  So I really want to know what YOU ALL think about this!  So respond! Share your thoughts.  You’re all consumers.  Most of you are customer experience professionals. 

What do you think!?  Add your thoughts and comments to this blog, and then plan to attend the ICSA Annual Conference in Jacksonville, FL this September 22-25.  There, you will be able to join the conversation with hundreds of your fellow customer experience professionals!

Now, please join the conversation and share your thoughts!


  1. great post, Bill! the popcorn guy is awesome and exemplifies the type of customer service a company’s frontline staff should provide. i believe that each company, regardless of the business, should value customer service and demonstrate that to its customers. there are enough negative experiences in life so why not make your customers’ experience with your company a positive one??

  2. This can be an interesting topic–

    My first reaction was to think about my evening last night. My husband and I went to the Verizon store and bought new phones. We ended up keeping 2 employees there a full hour beyond the time that the store was about to close. They were fantastic! We apologized and they both explained repeatedly that their posted closing time was more of an estimated time. They went onto say that they would never want to leave a customer “unserved” because they were supposed to have been done for the day.

    However, I completely agree that this was more of an exception than the rule when it comes to common interactions.

    My opinion is that there are a convergence of things happening that all have an effect.

    1–There is less and less personal interaction–so much communication is via email/messaging that people forget that when they are “live and in person” it’s not just the words that are said but the overall delivery that’s being interpretated

    2 — Because of the fast paced, less personal world a segment of the population has become accustomed to less than stellar service being the “norm” and therefore overall expectations are lowered on the bar is lowered.

    3 — Families (in general) have moved to a more informal, less respectful way of relating. This is the foundation that kids are first being exposed to– then this moves to the schools and ultimately the workplace.

    However, I believe that this is not hopeless and that people, still want to help people. It leaves you feeling good and then you continue to pass it on. The trick is to get the momentum building!

    • Thanks for sharing that great example of terrific service Julie! My guess is that the management at that store has done a great job of creating a culture of service. By doing that they don’t leave the quality of the customer experience to chance. I am also guessing that the store treats their employees with respect as well.

      You also bring up some great reasons for why all of this may be happening. Makes me want to go back to my childhood days of going to the local “five and dime” where I was always welcomed and treated as a valued customer! Thanks for sharing Julie!

  3. Perhaps a few of the reasons might just be as it follows:
    1. We don’t complaint enough.
    2. When we do, we don’t claim at the right person. Don’t go to the manager as they would likely not forward up the info. Write to the CEO.
    3.We need to create general awareness in every place we are and every role we play of the importance of customer service and the benefit as a 3 way business where we grow as individuals, our society grows and our business grow.

    • I appreciate your thoughts here Kay and thanks for sharing.

      You bring up the issue of whether all organizations really listen to their customers – especially when they are complaining. The best organizations WELCOME customer complaints because it creates an opportunity to step up and fix the problem. Every statistic I have even seen on the subject indicates that a customer with a complaint that gets handled is far more likely to remain a customer, than one who never had a complaint!

      Organizations need to provide opportunities for customers to communicate with them and they need to listen, and act on what they hear. GOOD STUFF!!

  4. Well you have companies that are just in it for the profits and some companies in it for the relationships they build which In turn will give them better profits!

    As a customer I would even go back paying higher prices if my customer experience is great.

    To date my best experience has been with GoDaddy. I recently started a new web site for the ballroom dance group Bill and I belong to. The customer service I experienced was terrific…they fixed a glitch that was stressing me out…..and when I asked ” what did you do to fix the issue” his response was ” if I tell you I will have to kill you” made me laugh. Out Loud!!! = great experience

    So I’m thinking it doesn’t take much to create a good customer experience except that person wanting to ..that person guided to create a great experiences…just the right personality for the job!

    • Lisa – your GoDaddy example is perfect! My guess is that the GoDaddy personnel are encouraged to create those types of experiences. And you are also right about spending more for good service. Again, the studies I have read indicate that customers are willing to pay as much as 10% more for a product from an organization that creates great customer experiences. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  5. Bill I think your “popcorn guy” best exemplifies in my opinion where the root of this problem may lie. Too many front line folks do not feel empowered to deliver that kind of customer service. Likley most feel that if they give away a bag of popcorn the “higher ups” will complain about him giving away money (profits.) It is disappointing that more folks don’t realize that a true monetary benefit can be derived from outstanding customer service. Repeat business from the same customer, new business from friends or co-workers of your existing client base. Most likely fewer complaints from customers who may be inclined to give you a second chance if something does go wrong. And on the flip side few stop to consider the significant cost of poor customer service.

    • Excellent point about empowerment Ron! Isn’t it ironic that businesses intrust personal customer contact with their customers, but often times don’t give them the power they need to do what is right for their customers. And these are the people who are in the BEST position to respond to customer’s needs.

      My sense is that all of this needs to start at the top with a strong commitment to creating exceptional customer experiences. And then doing what is necessary to help your customer facing employees do their job the right way! Thanks for joining the conversation Ron!

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