Where is the Line Between Forgetfulness and Great Service?


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Great service is comprised of many parts and each must be present to create the experience every customer desires. Let’s briefly discuss each one of my top 8 until we get to “memory”. I know you’ll agree with me that it should be near the top of your list.

Line Between Forgetfulness and Great Service


Training for the needed service skills is an essential foundational aspect of great service in any industry.  We all know that without proper training, few employees are prepared to serve their customers in any meaningful way.

Industry Knowledge

Not everything can be trained. Most businesses follow service standards and guidelines that are specific to their industry. These are “best practices” and they are that way for a reason; they work. Great service providers are aware of these practices and continually fill their knowledge toolbox with the latest and greatest ideas from their field.


We must “care” for those we serve, even if it’s only for the time the customer is in front of us. Care allows us to take that added step to identify, locate, and deliver the product and service that’s best for our customers.


Your great service will never be seen without the product being available. It doesn’t matter how well your team is trained or how much they care. Without the goods, there cannot be service.


As the partner to caring, empathy allows us to “be the customer” and feel their pain when they are disappointed with our offerings. Empathy allows us to do what’s best, not because we’re supposed to, but because we feel compelled to. Empathy is one of the building blocks of memorable service.


How quickly you can get the product into the hands of your customer increases its value and enhances the excitement of purchase.


Convenience, like promptness, creates ease-of-purchase and helps to retain customers. No need for your customer to shop elsewhere, you have it and you have it when they want it. It also can justify a higher price and may increase demand.

These 7 features of service will separate the good from the great. But something is missing. It’s a BIG thing and one of the most overlooked parts of great service:


Yes, memory. Regardless of your training, industry knowledge, caring, or convenience, etc., if you cannot remember what the customer wants or what the next step of service is, the experience can be ruined. Example:

You’re enjoying a wonderful meal in a fine restaurant. Food, service, and ambiance are all top-notch. Midway through your t-bone steak, you finish your beverage and right on cue, the server stops by to ask if you would like it refilled and you say yes. (NOTE: really great service means your beverage would have never been empty).

One or two bites later, you’re expecting the server to return with another beverage, but she doesn’t. She forgot.

Her other tables needed her, the manager asked her a question while she was in the kitchen, or she entered into a non-work conversation with a coworker. Regardless, it took her mind off her task at hand; to refill your beverage.

The memory you’re left with is a wonderful meal but poor to average service.

Another example can be with your car mechanic. You take your car to your local mechanic to fix a series of relatively small issues; in need of an oil change, windshield wipers are worn, brake light out, etc. and he ensures that all will be fixed by the end of the day. After you pick up the car and are driving away you realize that he never replaced the brake light.

“How could he forget to fix such a small thing?” you say. You’re inconvenienced and worst of all, you found out about the break light from the police officer who pulled you over! UGH!

Now, you discount the other work he did and only focus on the one item that was forgotten. It ruins the otherwise fine job he did.

In a wonderful blog post written by Paul Jun on the HelpScout website, Paul writes:

There are some commonplace notions about memory; we usually describe it as a tape recorder, a computer, a photograph, or a mirror. Indeed, psychologists suspect that our brains are perfect recorders. When we forget something, it means the memory isn’t lost, merely misplaced.

But what happens when a misplaced memory ruins an otherwise fine service?

In the two examples above, is the waiter or mechanic guilty of providing bad service? Or did they simply forget to do something? There is a fine line between forgetfulness and great service. Some customers are quick to let a small oversight ruin their impression of service. They expect everything to be perfect and there should not be an oversight because the vendor is “paid to not forget”. “It’s their job” to get everything right.

Demanding customers expect perfection. No excuse is tolerable, even if it’s something as mundane as “I forgot”.

Paul continues:

So much of what we do is rooted in the pursuit of happiness; it makes sense that customers are quick to leave a business that doesn’t value them. There could be years of trust and loyalty, but like all stories, there’s an ending—an action that turns the page and shuts the book. The ending wraps up the story and packages it into memory, for good or for ill.

Think about a product or service that you used to use or a store that you used to go to. The reason for that disconnect is because of how the story (an ensemble of experiences) ended and what remains (a bad memory).

Any one of these 8 parts of great service can be missed and the service may still be considered “great”. But when the vendor forgets something that the customer places a high value on it becomes an obstacle some never forget.

Think of what YOU remember about the businesses you frequent. Why do you continue to buy from them? It’s probably because of a combination of all 8 items above. You “remember” how you were treated. You “remember” how you felt going there. You “remember” the greeting you were given and extra steps the owner or agent took to serve you.

Memory and the image it creates can lead to a life-long customer/vendor relationship. That’s wonderful news. But, it can also easily turn off an otherwise fine service.

Memory is a very powerful tool in service.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


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