The Difference Between Good and Great

Shep Hyken
Contributing Writer
Shepard Presentation

If you had to have surgery, would you rather go to the most skilled surgeon or the nicest surgeon?

I was at a party the other night and someone I met shared his opinion of the difference between a good doctor and a great doctor. A good doctor makes you well. A great doctor makes you well and calls you the next day to see how you’re doing.

I thought about that all weekend. My new friend was saying that good is doing what you are expected to do. If you’re a surgeon, you make people well. However, great is the addition of a better customer experience. In the case of the surgeon, it’s skill plus bedside manner.

Here’s a “less critical” example. If you go to a restaurant that has the most delicious food, but the service is outright terrible, you wouldn’t refer to that as a great experience. The food could be the best, but if what surrounds it – the experience – is tainted with rude and angry employees, you would be reluctant to go back.

So, back to my friend’s example. The doctor’s bedside manner, which included a phone call to check on the patient, is a metaphor for a good customer experience – or in this case, a patient experience.

Sweetwater, an online retailer that sells music and audio equipment, is another excellent example of this. I bought a new microphone and mixing board from them last year, and they assigned a salesperson to my account. A week after I received the items, “my” salesperson called me to make sure they were working and confirm that I was happy with my purchase. A good experience would have been talking to a salesperson, ordering the equipment, and having it show up as expected in a day or two. What elevated it to a great experience was the less-than-one-minute phone call I received from “my guy.”

Creating a great customer experience doesn’t mean going over the top. Occasionally, you have opportunities to do so, but if your typical experience includes a little something extra, like a phone call to check on a customer, you move beyond just being good. Our customer service research found that the top reason customers are most likely to come back is because employees are helpful and friendly.

It is expected that a doctor has skill. If the doctor is also helpful and friendly, another way of saying the doctor has a good bedside manner, then by my friend’s definition, he or she is a great doctor.

So, what’s your version of bedside manner? What little something can you add to the experience so that people will refer to you as great? Don’t answer me. Sit down with your team and answer these questions for yourself and your organization. Define your version of what would make you a great doctor, communicate it to your people, train them to deliver on it, and watch your customers’ reactions. They will reward you by saying, “I’ll be back!”

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