Is 'Customer Satisfaction' passé?
As Customers become more discerning, Service aims are evolving
Today, we customers are smarter: not only are we much clearer on exactly
what we want, but we instinctively respond to what your actual feelings and attitudes
towards us really are (you can't hide them!)
First, we now expect what was traditionally
thought of as 'good' Customer Service:
• deliver on you promises
• get it right first time
• recover from problems perfectly
• and be courteous and polite
There was a time when you could stand out from the crowd by simply offering
even some of these basics. But nowadays, of course, these have become 'hygiene factors'
that just keep you on the playing field.
As Customers, we now just expect this from ALL our suppliers - it's
basic, isn't it? And, unless your competitors are still giving last-century service, you simply cannot rely
anymore on 'doing a good job' to differentiate yourself: of
course, we won't stand for it when you get it wrong; but just because it's 'right' doesn't mean
we're going to stay.
That's why the Harvard Business Review, way back in
- Satisfied Customers can be just as likely to defect as
"Defectors’ ranks include those who are more than dissatisfied,
quite dissatisfied, and neutral. The merely satisfied—many more than most managers realize—defect,
Why Stratified Customer
Defect (Harvard Business
Review • Nov
– Dec 1995) can be
So, second, we're looking for more from
- We want to feel good about our interaction with you
- We want to know that you value us, that we are important to you, that you
care about us, as people, and care about our lives, and our business when appropriate
- We want to know that you are going to be there for us when we need you,
that we're more than just a transaction to get right for you, more than just a way for you to make
- And yes, we're pleased when you do that little bit extra for us, go above
and beyond, etc
- but even this has to be done with sincerity - as a way of
showing you care about us - otherwise it just falls flat too.
This might all sound rather fluffy, but we really do want to have a human
relationship with you, as well as a business transaction. This turns out to be true with even the most
hardened business people where you'd least expect the human element to be important. There's a
simple reason for this: despite appearances and rumours to the contrary, they are human too!
" What became immensely apparent was that, yes, your
"entry ticket to the park" was having your basics right..., but, if we were truly going to
differentiate ourselves, then what our customers were saying (and what their behaviours were
demonstrating in terms of whether they chose us, whether they stayed with us, whether they bought
more from us) was actually what made the difference wasn't really the functional stuff, that was
the given, what made the difference was whether they felt they'd had
a good emotional experience with us as an organisation.
Darren Cornish, Director of Customer Experience at Norwich Union
We Customers really care about your attitude towards us!
If needing to create a good 'emotional experience' is
not already clear and obvious, think about when you've had to call a company yourself, or have walked
into their foyer or shop: ever get hot under the collar, simply by
their attitude towards you - curt perhaps, or unfriendly, condescending, or simply
When this happens, how do we feel?
At best we feel resignation: "Well, what are you going to
More likely, we'll switch suppliers at the first opportunity. And probably
without telling them why (after all, it sounds pretty naff to say: "I didn't like the way you talked to me"!)
Conversely, you may well have had the occasional interaction with even
a large call centre type business where you actually felt good about your transaction with them. If
you've had that pleasure, think about what it was that pleased you:
- their warm, helpful attitude
- their personable, engaging
- or their obvious concern and commitment to make
things right for you, as person.?
But now think about all those customer experiences you've had
which neither make you feel Good nor
Bad - just plain Neutral: no particular feelings either way. These are probably the
vast majority of them. Notice how, even though they've probably got everything 'right', it leaves no
lasting impression with you.
So, the aim is, of course, to get your Customers' experiences out of
the Feel Bad
zone, but also even beyond
the Feel Neutral
zone, and into the Feel Good zone - because that's where all the huge
benefits kick in.
We KNOW when we feel great, even if we don't know why!
It may be hard to put our finger on exactly what it is about an
interaction that makes us feel good, or even great, as a Customer, but, for sure, we know when
And yes, we may well tell friends and colleagues about it, even
recommending the company to them. And certainly we'll probably forgive them for those everyday little errors or
mistakes that crop up in any business ... because we know they care about us.
And for sure (unless it's really an isolated one-off maverick member of staff)
it hasn't happened by chance: the business will have spent a lot of time and effort to put someone who
actually WANTS to do business with you and relate to you as a person on the end of the phone!
As I say, despite all this being pretty basic, it's strange
that there's still no obvious and accepted name or industry term to refer to this ability to
personally connect with Customers and make them feel good at a human level. Again,
that's why I coined the term Customer Empathy in 1992, when I was the first to both recognise its
importance and provide objective feelings-based research and services to help achieve it.
No doubt you're already taking Customer Satisfaction, and even 'Customer
Delight' (let alone Customer Empathy) seriously, and you have measures and targets that encourage
But they may be working against you.
For example, are you checking if staff are saying the 'right'
words and doing the 'right' thing (managing their 'behaviours), or are you assessing if
they are being Caring (feels good), say, rather than
simply Indifferent (feels neutral), or even Uncaring (feels
Clearly, you tend to get what you measure, even when it's at the expense of
what you actually want! The very measures themselves may be self-defeating, in fact they often
For example, to be a bit simplistic, suppose you want your staff to be more
'Welcoming'. If you determine that Welcoming staff always 'smile', you may insist that they all smile at the
customers, and then you may measure if they do or don't (by watching them, for instance). Well, if you force
them to smile they surely will, but will that make us customers feel Welcomed? Probably not! Unless it's really
sincere, a forced smile is more likely to turn us off, and we certainly
won't feel Welcomed!
Yet, of course, the answer is easy: if you want your staff to be more
Welcoming, just ask them to be more 'Welcoming' and stop telling them how to do it. Then
just measure how Welcoming they come over, in their own way. It may sound simple,
but it can represent a HUGE shift of focus; that's why it's good to have some help, especially on how to
objectively measure things like 'Welcoming'.
feedback from your Customers
Generally Customers will be great at telling you what you've got right
and wrong, and if they think that you've got it right, they will likely say they are Satisfied, or
even Very Satisfied. But, as we have seen, that doesn't mean they are actually feeling good
enough to be more loyal and do more business with you as a result.
If you ask them how they actually feel, they will find it
hard to access their feelings in a clear and consistent way and give you accurate feedback.
Yet, since the biggest question actually is: "How do our customers
feel about doing business with us, about interacting with us?" it's time to build these
feelings-based metrics into your business.