Customer Satisfaction

I’ve been reading the book First Break all the Rules… , an excellent book which talks about how not to manage the team. The book is based on many years of research, Gallup has done with many managers, especially great managers. It gave me many “aha” moments and I would like to share one here.

Define Right Outcome

According to the author, Marcus Buckingham, one of the responsibilities of a great manager is to define the right outcome. A simple guideline to arrive at the right outcome is by asking the following questions:

  1. What is right for your customer?
  2. What is right for your company?
  3. What is right for the individual?

This post focusses on the guidelines for the first question, i.e. What is right for your customer?

Customer Expectation Hierarchy

Customer satisfaction is a paramount for every business. In the last 20 years, Gallup interviewed over a billion customers to find out what customers really want. The first discovery was, which was kind of expected, the customer needs vary depending on the industry.

But the second discovery was surprising. Despite the fact that the needs vary depending on the industry, four customer expectations remain consistent across all the customer segments. And these four expectations are hierarchical too. The hierarchy looks as follows:

Customer Expectation Hierarchy
  • Accuracy — The lowest level, every customer expects you to do what you had mentioned that you will do. Examples are, they expect a hotel to give them the room they reserved or food they ordered in a restaurant. It doesn’t matter how friendly the employees are, if the company fails in accuracy tests, then customers defect.
  • Availability — All customers expect the bank to open when they use it. They expect their favorite restaurant chain to be nearby. Any company that make itself more accessible, will make more customers. ATM machines, websites, mobile apps etc. are examples for improving availability.

These are basic needs and are quite easy to steam too. If met successfully, these can only prevent customer dissatisfaction. These are important expectations, but are not sufficient to make customers your advocates. Customers won’t admire a bank for sending accurate statements or having 24/7 ATMs. The next two in the hierarchy complete the customer’s journey from a prospect to an advocate.

  • Partnership — Customers want you to listen to them, be responsive to them and make them feel that they are on the same side of the fence as you. Examples are airlines giving special treatment to frequent fliers, video stores having “Staff Picks” section which says, “We are like you, watch videos too”, Levi’s “Made to Order Jeans” etc.
  • Advice — The most advanced level of expectation. Customers feel the closest bond to organizations that have helped them to learn. That is one of the major reason why companies are trying to transform every employee to “Consultants”. Amazon’s “Recommended reading” section, Home Depot’s onsite experts offering training etc. are examples.

The main difference between the first two and the last two in the hierarchy is that the former can be achieved through step-by-step process and the latter can’t be. If you want your customers to be your advocates, then, as managers, select the employees who have the talent to listen and to teach and focus them towards emotional outcomes like partnership and advice.

Measure Customer Satisfaction

But how do you measure customer satisfaction. The most popular is Net Promoter Score, but that does not help us to evaluate where we stand on the above hierarchy. The answer to that is also simple, ask the right questions for each of the levels in the above hierarchy and ask customers to rate them on a 10 point scale. The goal is to have all the customers rate at the highest rating i.e. 10, across all the levels, Accuracy, Availability, Partnership and Advice.

So include the below four questions with a 10 point rating scale in the next customer satisfaction survey.

  • How happy are you with our attention to detail and thoroughness? (Accuracy)
  • How happy are you with the speed and efficiency at which we are able to respond to your requests? (Availability)
  • How happy are you with our collaboration and the proactiveness that we showcase while working with you? (Partnership)
  • How happy are you with the extent to which we help you learn and provide recommendations that are in the best interest of your organization? (Advice)

If the rating is 7/10 or below for the first two questions, accuracy and availability, go back and check the systems and operations, something is wrong there. Higher ratings for the last two questions, i.e. partnership and advice, can be achieved by listening to customers and looking for opportunities to help them along with providing them educational content and showcasing that you are “the leader” in your field.

At Multunus, we’ve started using the above questions for Customer Survey and it has helped us to understand and improve the relationships. We are in the process of creating a playbook for the same, to help every Consultant understand the importance of this and take action for improvements.

Further Reading