Service 101: Why Good Customer Service Is Hard To Find

Time = Money
Time = Money

Want to know why great customer service is hard to find? Because it requires an investment of time, money, and planning.

We’re fast to complain about the shortcomings of businesses who fail to give great service — just read Yelp and you’ll see all sorts of disappointments in the area of customer service — but are we actually willing do something about it?

We all may hope a culture of appreciation and helpfulness was built into every business exchange, but desire doesn’t make it so. Money and intention do.

So if you want great customer service, you need to start investing in it.

Investing in Hospitality

Kindness and generosity of spirit may be inherent for some, but natural empathy and kindness is a trait that requires cultivation in most people.

The average Jane and Joe don’t spend their days thinking up ways to relate to another person’s pain. The hourly worker isn’t empowered to dedicate time to creatively problem solve a solution that will make a stranger feel better about themselves and the product they just purchased. In truth, most consumers and employers want fast and efficient help that comes at a low price. They expect nicety and warmth will be offered to them gratis.

The sad truth is, we live in a world where we expect altruism and compassion but we don’t cultivate these traits in our institutions. Schools don’t require Mindfulness and Compassion 101. The workplace isn’t where you take classes on empathy. Our government doesn’t require our public servants to be trained in radical hospitality. I mean, who can afford such frivolities!?

And yet, how is it we expect people to be giving and kind to one another in our daily exchanges, if we don’t invest time in speaking about such things?

If you want to grow employees or people who treat others with warmth and compassion, we have to take the time to teach such traits.

And guess what, folks. Time = money.

business exchange
Invest in hospitality

Time = Money

We can wish all day long that kindness and compassion were inherent traits that were  taught in homes and in the business world, but–on average–they aren’t.

As a people, we would rather spend money on software training, speed, and efficiency than traits like big-heartedness and unselfishness. Check out the job postings on most company websites and you are not going to find empathy and benevolence listed under job requirements.

To get great customer service we have to build meaning into our work and begin growing gentleness and hospitality within us.

A Call to Action

Businesses: If your business collects complaints about customer service or you own or work at a restaurant that’s plagued with flaming Yelp reviews, I suggest you think about investing more time into building a culture of hospitality. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest you seek outside help (there are great books and people like me who specialize in teaching such things).

Consumers: If you find yourself consistently disappointed with the service you get at restaurants, banks, retail stores, and daily business exchanges–I have a revolutionary suggestion for you: start investing time and money into supporting the businesses that treat you well and learning how to be kinder to yourself and others.

If you want to be treated well or have employees treat customers with kindness and respect–we have to be willing to invest in it. How will you start investing?


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. The worst is when I used to receive the verbal tip. I could see it coming a mile away. The customers which happen to notice the extra effort you put into the experience, but tip horribly. i.e. the Verbal Tip. ARG.

    I like this article/little essay because good service is an investment and investing does cost money! So Yes! Good customer service does cost money. Plain and Simple. Everyone agrees customer service is important, but few are willing to step up to the $bill….Nice work, Brooke.

  2. Hi Brooke,

    Thanks for so eloquently stating something I’ve been thinking a lot about these days.

    It’s true that good customer service is very hard to find. Unfortunately like you said, many companies aren’t willing to put the energy into training or retaining good help. Probably a result of our culture of looking at the short term results, while not taking into consideration the long term consequences.

    The restaurant business in the USA to a large degree is doing better on this front than other industries since frequently a servers’ take home pay is closely related to his service. A great incentive to put in that smile even when you are having a bad day.

    Unfortunately in other industries where one’s fortune isn’t so closely related to putting yourself in the others’ shoes, companies have to come up with other ways to motivate their employees.

    Since you’ve spent some time in Italy, I’m also curious to hear your opinion on customer service there. I spent most of my time in Milan, unfortunately from my experience outside of the mom and pop operation, customer service there was deplorable… Do you agree, and if so why?

    – FlirtyFoodie

    • June 16

      Thanks Flirty Foodie!

      I was really happy with the service in Italy. People were very attentive. Or they were quaintly straightforward and unafraid of being seen as rude: they were very clear about what kind of behavior they wouldn’t tolerate. We found great service in the small towns and sometimes (less frequently) in the major cities.

  3. August 9

    Good day Brooke. I must say I enjoyed reading your article. It really brings joy to find someone who feels the same way I do about the industry of Food & Beverages.

    Empathy, passion, love and giving are traits needed to create a remarkable and unforgettable service yet far too many restaurants do not invest time in that. Singapore where I am from is a fine example. It saddens me greatly that employers talk about good service, but they do not pay their waiters well, rest properly, have a regimental working environment, disregard waiters opinions, serve horrible factory-made food for chefs. It’s any wonder why the service standards in Singapore is completely empty of heart and soul. Yet we are in the hospitality industry and the culture of hospitality is completely non-existent within the the many restaurants.

    But yes, I too often found remarkable service in less dense areas closer to homes. Often only a rare find. I look forward to reading more articles from you and I truly hope that I would get the chance to connect with you and share much of the F&B industry in Singapore with you.
    I too have the growing ambition to make F&B a reputable career choice for all and you and your knowledge and what you want to achieve has really hit the mark of what I truly respect as a restaurant consultant.

    Thank you so much for doing what you do. I truly appreciate having to find your site.


    • August 9

      Thank you Shawn for your insights on service in Singapore. I had a very different impression of Singapore and had heard it is a city built on hospitality principles. Your perspective was certainly a reality check for me! Thank you again for coming by and reading. I hope you do come back soon!

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