Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Customer Satisfaction Is the Enemy of Exceptional Customer Service

amazing-vs-satisfiedJim Collins, author of the bestselling business book, Good to Great said, “Good is the enemy of great.”

A twist on this excellent concept is that, “Good is the foundation of exceptional.”

A good customer service experience is doing what you are supposed to do. That’s expected. In other words, it meets basic expectations. It’s satisfactory. It’s just good. Beyond satisfactory – and beyond good – is exceptional customer service. And, according to Nate Spears, the Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder of ClearSource, exceptional customer service is anything you do beyond that is better than just good.

I had an excellent interview on my Amazing Business Radio show with Nate. His company, ClearSource provides customer support via phone, email, chat and social media for companies that want to outsource their customer service. Nate believes that good customer service is just a foundation for something better. He quoted Daymond John, one of the “sharks” on the hit TV show Shark Tank, who said, “Great customer service is when you do for the customer everything you can do after you have done what you are supposed to do.”

Nate says, “Doing what you’re supposed to do builds trust. And, trust is the foundation to the customer experience.” Once again we’re back to the old expression, “People want to be around people and do business with people they know, like and… trust!”

Trust creates confidence. Confidence turns into repeat business. And when the customer comes back and experiences the consistent positive experience that they had the last time – and the time before – that repeated positive experience becomes predictable and can turn into customer loyalty.

This is why it concerns me when companies talk about “satisfying” their customers. Some people might say this is semantics – or that I’m just playing with words. No way! Satisfactory is not acceptable if you want to be competitive in your market. I believe when a company says they want to satisfy their customers, they actually intend to be better than that but are just using the wrong word to describe it.

Think of it this way. If you were asked to take a survey of a recent customer service experience, and they asked you to rate the service on a one to five scale, where one is bad and five is great, satisfactory would be in the middle. Satisfactory is good or average.

Maybe I’m not playing word games. Maybe it’s not semantics. Satisfying customers is really just creating an average experience. So, if good is the enemy of great, then satisfaction is the enemy of an exceptional – even an amazing – customer experience. In other words, don’t settle for good. Make it the starting point. Make it foundational.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)





  1. Shep, great perspective! Customer service is about being average. Customers today are telling every business owner and executives that customer service is the minimum expectation, but if you want to win me over as your a life time customer, you better deliver exceptional customer service beyond the basics. Can you imagine if Disney or Ritz Carlton only delivered customer service? Their purpose is to deliver legendary customer service that will hit a home run and create loyal customers for life. The numbers tell us the truth-US businesses are losing $84 billion from poor customer service.

    • Hey Tal – Great to hear from you. You get it. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else did. Disney and the Ritz being average??? No way!!! Thanks for stopping by with your comment!

  2. I always enjoy your perspective on this topic. The reality is that even the best companies do a little above average most of the time (what you’d call Amazing Service), try like crazy to avoid falling short, and do something exceptional on occasion.

    Just for fun, here’s the list of companies profiled by Jim Collins in his Good to Great book:

    Circuit City
    Fannie Mae
    Philip Morris
    Pitney Bowes
    Wells Fargo

    • Hi Jeff – Thanks for your comment. You get it! Good list of companies. There was another book, “In Search of Excellence,” that had a great list of companies. Amazing how some of those companies fell out of favor – or vanished altogether. Thanks again, Jeff.

  3. I completely agree standard customer service is doing what they think that you should do and are amazed when you go beyond that.

    The only issue I find and please help me with this if he customers thought that going beyond the standard is standard.

    How do you manage that?

    • It’s not about going above and beyond the standard is standard. It’s about creating a new standard – that is ideally above the competition’s standard.

  4. Hi Shep,

    Customer service is evolving every passing day and there are many options available in the market which can do wonders to set up and execute a great customer service which can result into customer satisfaction.

    The current options provides features like calling without any hardphones through voip based phone systems which can be managed anytime from anywhere. It also provides features like IVR, Call Recording, Call Transfer, Call Queueing etc.

    The best service providers are Aicrall, Evioce, etc.

    Every small business needs to try out this systems as it gives flexibility to buy local numbers from more than 50 countries and manage their virtual support system.

    Thanks for sharing

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