Customer Experience News & Trends

The 5 biggest lies about customer satisfaction

A growing amount of service quality research has found measures of “satisfaction” as poor predictors of the most important of all customer service goals: Will customers who buy once keep coming back for more?

The surveys pinpoint five myths about customer satisfaction to share at your next sales meeting.

  1. Myth: A satisfied customer is a loyal customer. Fact: More than 75% of customers across all industries who leave an organization for a competitor rated themselves as “satisfied” or “completely satisfied” with the previous organization on customer surveys. It takes more than mere satisfaction to ensure long-term loyalty.
  2. Myth: If customers say they’re satisfied, it’s true. Fact: Most customers would rather tell a little lie about being satisfied than to engage in a potentially confrontational dialogue explaining why they were not happy with a product or service. Candor is not easy for customers, which is why many choose flight over fight.
  3. Myth: Customers want the organizations they do business with to ask them for feedback. Fact: Customers want organizations to read their minds. Only the disappointed or angry customers have the motivation to provide feedback. Most everyone else in between wants to be left alone.
  4. Myth: Customers believe if they give feedback, something will actually change. Fact: Most customers are twice-bitten cynics. They believe salespeople solicit feedback because they’re either directed to by some edict or offered some prize, not because they want to improve products or services. Even if improvements are made using feedback, most customers never learn of the changes, so the perceptive effect is “They don’t care.”
  5. Myth: Complaining customers are your most at-risk buyers, the ones most likely to defect. Fact: Not according to the surveys. It’s the quietly disappointed ones you have to look out for. They are the ones who, when approached by a competitor with a shinier widget or a slightly better deal, will abandon you for bluer skies, greener pastures and the promise of a more hassle-free experience.

Focus on learning not evaluation

Customer feedback is about evaluation. Customer learning is about problem solving. Problem solving means learning for improvement. It requires more customer intelligence than customer evaluation, more ideas that critique.

Here are three steps that may help you move from customer evaluation to customer learning:

  1. Stop expecting surveys to be tools for learning. Written customer surveys may yield useful demographic or general marketing information. But customer intelligence, the kind relevant for service or product improvement, is best achieved face-to-face and ear-to-ear by salespeople.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. Learning begins with a spirit of openness. If customers feel free to move the conversation as they see fit, they will move to areas of significance to them – the good, the bad and ugly of their personal experience with the company.
  3. Try not to make assumptions about what the customer thinks. If you really want to provide exceptional customer service, you need to know your customers. First-hand research, not surveys, is the most reliable means of knowing what really matters to your customers.

Adapted from Customer Loyalty Guaranteed (A Business, Avon, MA) by Chip Bell and John Patterson. Mr. Bell is the founder of the Dallas-based Chip Bell Group. John Patterson is president of Progressive Insights in Atlanta, GA.

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