Why is Great Service Hard to Find?


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If you’re like me, you’re probably constantly scratching your head and wondering: “Why is great service so hard to find?”

Last week, I wrote about why companies should give a hoot about delivering great customer service to their customers. In today’s post, again from Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, I answer the question about why great service is hard to find. It baffles me because it seems so obvious that great service – and a great overall experience – will have customers coming back for more. Let’s see what Zingerman’s has to say about this. In his book, Ari Weinzweig provides eight reasons or answers.

1. It’s unfamiliar. We didn’t grow up with it. Our parents didn’t point it out to us when it happened. They pointed out other things that were important but not great (or bad) service. (I really think our generation will turn this thinking around and call it out. I do. I hope others do, too.) So nobody really knows what it looks like. The fix here is setting clear expectations and providing lots of training.

2. It’s not respected. That seems contrary to popular belief, no? But I like what Ari says here; in a nutshell, Americans look down on those who provide service. “Although everyone says they want to get great service, far fewer want to actually give it. The truth is that if you’re a service provider, it’s more than likely that you’re considered by at least part of your peer group as something of a ‘failure.’ Successful people simply aren’t supposed to end up working in service jobs.” I can’t argue with that perspective.

3. It requires more work in the moment. It takes a lot of work and focus to deliver great service day in and day out. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort, it won’t happen.

4. It’s hard to get John Wayne out of the way. It’s hard to change behaviors and perceptions among people who were raised to be strong, fight for their rights, stand up for what they believe in, and don’t take crap from anyone. As you know, to deliver great service, you need to forget all of that.

5. It’s not fair. If you were raised with the notion that life is fair (um, I wasn’t), then you’ll be quickly disillusioned. Customer are rude to you; you’re nice to them; they continue to be rude to you. That’s not fair. As Ari points out, often, customers who are rude and complain often get more attention than those who are considerate and don’t complain. Ari says that he tells his employees that “Fair is another planet. And we, unfortunately, are not on it.” Reminds me of what my uncle used to say: “The fair is in Pomona.” (For those of you not in SoCal, the LA County Fair takes place in Pomona, CA.)

6. There’s plenty of good talk but also bad walk. This one cuts to the heart of leadership and how leadership models behaviors for their employees. If a store manager walks past a customer without acknowledging him or without asking if he needs help, that sends the wrong message to employees.

7. Reward systems don’t reinforce it. And if they don’t, then your employees will be unlikely to deliver great service. Leadership must recognize great service, both through kudos and thank yous and through financial rewards.

8. It’s not defined. This is probably one of the top reasons, if not the top reason, great service is hard to find. If it’s not defined, employees have no idea what it looks like or what is expected of them.

I think this is a pretty comprehensive list of reasons. Can you think of any others?

You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied. -Jerry Fritz

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


  1. So true…this article truly resonated with me! Just today – I went to Just Salad in NYC to pick up an order I placed on line. It was total chaos in there. And the employees seemed downright angry and bothered by ANY questions. Questions which pertained to my order – which they could NOT find…that’s how disorganized it was in there. Lack of customer service. You would think since you are paying premium for food/service in NYC (Park Ave.) no less that you would receive comparable customer service. Not in this case!


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