Satisfy Your Customers, Not Metrics

Posted by Corey Smith on May 24, 2012 2:41:00 PM

customer satisfaction

Most marketers believe that high customer satisfaction scores correlate with sustainable growth. Conversely, significant drops in scores should link to declines in growth.

But this isn’t necessarily so.

We all think that if we strive for customer satisfaction levels of 90% or 95% that our sales will increase. That is not really the way it works. Those who are obsessed with satisfaction are focusing on the wrong metric.

Confused? Read on.

When I first graduated from high school, I worked for AT&T. I worked in the leased telephone division. One of my jobs was to convince people that leasing a telephone made sense. I was supposed to help them keep contracts on telephone equipment whether they needed them or not (sound like AOL?).

Picture the conversation, “Yes, ma’am, that pink Princess phone that you sold in a garage sale 7 years ago is a leased telephone and you’ve been paying $4.25 per month for it ever since. But don’t worry, there’s good news, I can send you another one free of charge as long as you continue to lease.”

Yeah, the product and service sucked.

One of the marketing initiatives was advertising that 94% of our customers said that we had “excellent” customer service. The marketing managers hoped that if the word excellent was spoken to our customers during the call that when the surveyors called they would be more likely to say we had “excellent” customer service.

As a result, I was required to say, “I hope that I provided you ‘excellent’ customer service today.” Even when I knew the client wasn’t happy with us and there was nothing I could do because our service was stupid, I had to encourage them to think our customer service was excellent. Basically, we baited the customer.

So, what is the difference between excellent, super, great or outstanding? Or, what is the difference between excellent, good, or pretty darn acceptable? It all depends on the way the consumer thinks. But we were able to grow our “excellent” rating to 96%. We were able to achieve that rating just before they closed the division for failure to meet revenue and profit targets.

Our improvement in our rating didn’t make a bit of difference on our revenues because the product we offered wasn’t a product that made sense for our clients.

The reality is, customer service is a very important thing to focus on but too often we don’t realize that it’s only a part of the picture. If you focus on trying to fool people into thinking that your product is great and your service makes up for the failings, they’ll catch on and you’ll fail. If you focus on providing them with a real product with real value and truly try to take care of them then the customer satisfaction will have a sustaining impact on your company.

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Digital Marketing Strategist. He is also the author of "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter."

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