The first job I ever held was as a floor attendant at a women’s boutique. To date, it remains to be the job I’ve held in fits and spurts for the longest while paying my way through University. The hours were long. The pay was minimum wage. But the first-hand experience garnered on customer satisfaction has been a blessing thousand times over.
I worked at the store during the crazy discounts era where there was always a sale going on. We made quite a show out of the coupons and vouchers thing. A couple of times a year, we’d even have these things called “Sweet Sales,” where each customer would get a free candy bar wrapped up in a discount voucher worth either 25%, 35%, or 45% off.
That’s right, we were giving out sugar highs and insanely good deals all at once.
As expected customers sang our praises and clothes flew off the shelves! So much so we deluded ourselves into thinking we had cracked the code on customer satisfaction. In any case, the majority of them had rated us 5/5 on our customer satisfaction surveys. Some went as far as to write personal notes that professed their undying loyalty and love for the store.
But this type of customer loyalty was not sustainable. As soon as another store offered a steeper discount and sweeter treat, a good number of them were out the gate. Turns out these customers weren’t really loyal or even satisfied, they were just people out for a good deal and sugar high.
Such traitors! Or were they?
As less and less customers graced our store, the more intrigued I was in uncovering the flaws in our customer satisfaction surveys. A quest that ultimately led me to the depths of a Harvard Business Review Article titled; Why satisfied customers defect.
The authors claimed that “behavioural measures of loyalty and satisfaction are a flawed model that rarely differentiates between consumers with true brand allegiance from those with no commitment. These uncommitted customers, who are accurately dubbed as “hostages” may appear to be loyal and even report high satisfaction but only because they feel “trapped” by the bribes aka incentives like discounts and candy-coated coupons. If a competitor offers a better deal they have no problems switching.
The article went on to explain true loyalists aka apostles, were loyal because of an emotional attachment to the company. However, it offered no tangible metrics that could serve as the means to tap this potentially powerful emotional connection.
“It should be measured,” it asserted. But how?
It’s been 10 plus years since I read this article and up to date I still haven’t come across a conclusive customer satisfaction metric that’s both diagnostic and predictive. Even the Net Promoter Score that has a cult-like following has its fair share of cons. While it can be a good indicator of growth it fails to offer context and can only handle small batches of data.
So what are you to do?
Rather than embark on a wild good chase of the perfect measure of customer satisfaction, you’d be better served finding ways of emotionally connecting with the customer. This type of customer engagement is a better predictor of lifetime value and loyalty since it fosters a deeper relationship that isn’t contingent on price or rewards.
In the end, customer satisfaction without engagement is a trivial pursuit.