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Back in the early 90s, Patty Smyth and Don Henley recorded a song called “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” The point of the song is that although love is a big thing, sometimes love isn’t enough for the relationship to work out.

Customer service has been shopped around town as the panacea for every business – the unique selling position for everyone that helps you differentiate yourself from the competition. And while I’m not arguing that this can be very effective, it’s kind of like love in that if everyone is providing good customer service, good is no longer good enough. It’s what’s expected. Now everyone has to be great and find moments to delight and surprise people by sending them special gifts just for being them. Then that becomes an expectation too.

See the problem?

Our consumer expectations around the importance of personalization have exploded. While there’s a plethora of bad customer service, good customer service is our new average.

What’s a business to do?

When Good Customer Service Isn’t Enough

I’m not suggesting you should give up trying to provide good customer service. I’m saying “good” is yesterday’s “average.” If you want customer service to be your business’ unique selling proposition it needs to be stellar and unable to be duplicated. That’s a tall order but you can begin with these ideas:

Customer Service Can Never Overcome Incompetency

First, great customer service will not make up for an incompetent staff. Someone who’s exceptionally nice but gives you the run around because they don’t know what they’re doing won’t bring customers in over and over. Train your employees well from day one and remind them not to say, “today’s my first day.” The customer doesn’t care.

Every Employee Is in Customer Service

The second thing that’s important to note is that everyone is in customer service. Yes, you may have a department or person dedicated to it but your marketing team, your receptionist, your valet, and anyone associated with your business is now in customer service. That’s why they need to be trained accordingly, like these 15 customer service skills that every employee needs.

Customer Service Doesn’t Cover a Shotty Service or Product (or does it?)

This idea is debatable and depends on the customer and what you’re selling. There are some products or services that once you’re in, it’s a real pain to switch so generally people are willing to put up with a lot before they end their business relationship with you, like banking for instance. Then there are others, like the restaurant industry, where one bad experience means you’ll never see that customer again.

I recently switched Internet service providers. I was cutting costs. I left my perfectly “fine” service because I felt nothing for them one way or the other, and the other guy was cheaper. I lost half a week of production from a slow service and constantly falling off the Interwebs. The new company thanked me for my patience and had someone out here every day trying to locate and fix the problem. I had everyone baffled, or at least my cable wiring did.

Everyone I spoke with from the company was professional and assured me it would be taken care of to my satisfaction. I would’ve given up on them long ago but they were dedicated to making it right. They did. I stayed.

Their service impressed me as did their willingness to help. My other ISP never impressed me one way or the other – that middle ground is a dangerous place for a business to be. The new company was also lucky that they were in the type of business that made it a pain to switch back again. I may not have been so willing to wait it out if they were simply selling me clothes.

Differentiating Yourself Through Customer Service

To truly stand out in this field you must know your service or product. You must train everyone on staff on what it means to delight your customers, and you must understand your industry and how easy you are to leave. The next step between great service and extraordinary service is using data to personalize your approach and meet your customers’ needs before they even realize what those needs are.

Remember, you’re not shooting for good anymore. You’re shooting for “share on social media” awesome.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect to their audience through content for higher conversions and greater loyalty. Her articles have appeared in Associations North (formerly Midwest Society of Association Executives’) Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

Christina’s an introvert who loves presenting and working with groups to help improve their storytelling and content marketing, yet she feels incredibly awkward at cocktail parties.