It happened again this morning – after taking my car to get some necessary maintenance, I received a breathlessly enthusiastic email asking whether I had any reason not to be thrillingly ecstatic with the service I received. Don’t you find this as well? You call a phone company, newspaper, cable company or any other large organization and after fighting your way through their robotic voice processing system, they then want to know if you’ll give them even more time to complete a ‘customer satisfaction’ survey! I would have been a whole lot happier, to be honest, to not have had to call them in the first place. My all time favorite was another car company dealership which gave me a satisfaction survey to send in with the grade of “excellent” conveniently marked in response to every question.
People, you need to realize that customers are not going to be excited because you perform the service they were expecting, even if you perform it very well. Writing years ago in my first book The Entrepreneurial Mindset, I proposed that companies need to think of their products and services as translation devices between the outcome customers are looking for and the services their capabilities can provide. The reactions can vary – positives are things people like. Negatives are things they don’t like. Neutrals are things they don’t care about (for a given customer segment). The strength and emotionality of the reaction also varies – if it’s basic, I expect it. If it’s discriminating, it gives me a reason to buy from one company versus another. If it’s energizing, the customer’s reaction is emotional and powerful.
Most successful new ideas have something both energizing for the customer and positive – I call these “exciter” features. Here’s the trouble – over time, what was once wildly exciting becomes less and less so, winding up as a basic. By the time it is a “basic” feature, customer simply expect it. I call those non-negotiables. Not providing them angers your customer, but providing them is simply expected. And most categories of business have an endless, and expensive, list of non-negotiables. Accuracy in bank statements, making sure your reservations system works properly in a hotel, creating cars that don’t suffer from defects — these are all very difficult things to get right, and are also expensive. But just doing that doesn’t mean a customer is going to be more loyal, pay more or come to you rather than a competitor just because you offer those things.
If you’re going to ask whether customers are foaming-at-the-mouth excited by your product or service, think first about whether you really are doing something exciting, meaningful or emotionally gratifying for them. Raise the bar a bit and you may be surprised (if not disappointed) that from a customer’s point of view, all those things you work so hard to get right don’t matter at all.