You've probably seen or heard the Geico and Wachovia commercials touting their high customer satisfaction rates. Geico says it has a 97% customer satisfaction rate. Wachovia says it has the highest customer satisfaction ranking in its industry. At first glance, you might think that's pretty impressive. But, let's take a closer look at what a satisfied customer really is and then decide if you should celebrate such an accomplishment. (Please note I do not have any personal vendettas against either Geico or Wachovia. I am not "picking on them." They are just the first examples that came to my mind.)
Remember when you were in school and report cards came out? How did you feel when you saw a bunch of "Cs" on that evaluation? If you were an over-achiever like I was, you were not jumping up and down about those grades. (Without of course we're talking about chemistry. Then a "C" was an extremely joyous occasion!) In Academia, a "C" is a satisfactory grade. It means you passed. But you were not any better than average.
If you're okay with just being average, STOP READING NOW. The rest of this article is not for you. However, if you have any desire to become an A student, read on.
What is a satisfied customer? One who got what she expected. One who got what he paid for. How do you create a satisfied customer? You provide what you say you're going to provide. Now, I realize that especially in South Florida, getting exactly what you pay for and what you expect is an unusual cause for celebration. In reality, it is a simple business transaction. Your business fills a need at a fair price and your customer goes away happy. That's the basis of doing business. There's nothing special or exciting about this process.
Think about how many satisfactory transactions you've been involved in this week. For example, I stopped to fill up my gas tank, I bought a baby gift for a business associate and I picked up lunch at a sandwich café. In all of those transactions, I got what I paid for, no more and no less. I'm a satisfied customer – but enough about me. If you were the vendor with what I chose to do business, do not get too excited about my satisfaction.
Next week when my car needs gas, I may go back to that same station, if it still has the cheapest price and I'm nearby. Next time I need a gift, maybe I'll check out a different store. Tomorrow for lunch, perhaps I'll change my mind about where to eat.
WHAT? You ask. You said you were satisfied. That's right, I was. A satisfied customer may or may not come back and do business with you again. You did not do anything remarkable. You did not make me feel special. You did not give me a strong reason to want to return and drag a bunch of friends with me.
Therein lies the key to why customer satisfaction is not a celebratory achievement. Yes, it's far better than creating angry customers! But it's not a method for building long term, sustainable success. Customer satisfaction does not guarantee that your customers return again and again. Nor does it mean that your customers will tell other people about you and send you referrals. (Thus allowing you to stop working so hard on chasing down new customers.)
The only way to achieve guaranteed success is to develop loyal customers. A loyal customer thinks you are the BEST. You not only met her needs, you ignored them. She felt good about doing business with you and can not wait to tell the next five people she sees how fantastic your company is. A loyal customer recommends your business to everyone he knows, whether they need your service or not. And a loyal customer comes back to you every time he needs your service or product.
To what businesses are you loyal? Do you have a dry cleaner who is not the closest to your house but who makes you feel like a valued friend every time you come in? There's a restaurant we go to regularly because the food is really good, but that only creates a satisfied customer. On top of the delicious food, the servers are the same people who were there last month and last year, so they remember their customers. Consistency is always a good thing. Plus, the owner always comes around to the tables and chats with the diners. You get the feeling he really cares about having you as a customer. I've recommended it to countless people and it's always the go-to restaurant when out of town guests come to visit.
Now, that you know the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer, you'll find your expectations have been raised. See if you do not get annoyed the next time you hear about a company with a 97% customer satisfaction rate.
© 2006 Lori Saitz