“We are already doing customer satisfaction studies, so why do we need a customer experience study?”
This is a common refrain I hear from a number of customers we engage with. I can see where they are coming from. After all lot of organisational time, money and effort is expended on these studies.
Well, if you are struggling with the same question, here’s a quick exercise.
Close your eyes for a minute. Transport yourself back to the last time you visited the automobile repair garage for routine maintenance or repairs. Now fast-forward to when your car has been attended to and you have gone to pick it up.
As you drive out, you are asked, “Are you satisfied with our service?” I would like you to answer this question now and remember your answer.
Suppose as you drove out you were instead asked, “What was your experience like on this visit?”
Compare you answer with the earlier one. Notice the difference?
Which of your two answers gives you a better insight into what the garage needs to work on to retain your business?
In response to the satisfaction question I might think, ‘Well the knocking sound in the car HAS disappeared and delivery is more or less on time, the car is looking clean so ..’.. and I say, “ Er.. I am fairly satisfied with it”
When asked how my experience was I remember rushing to get there early enough to be attended to quickly, wishing they had `valet’ parking as I scouted for space, feeling inadequate and anxious as I tried to understand the `estimate’, my irritation at discovering the accidental grease stain on my clothes and the relief that I would not have to do this for some time now.
Am I satisfied? Yes, I am – fairly. Because my experience with other garages has been similar, friends have shared more-or-less similar stories about their experiences – so this is what I `expected’.
Does knowing this help the garage? Sure it does. It helps him to know where he stands vis- a- vis expectations of the customer. But where do you go from there?
Does it give him a handle on `why’ he has been rated so?
No. Asking the customer why would give you reasons but many a time these are rationalisations and the real causality is neither apparent nor objective.
E.g. I may say `dis-satisfied’ with a sales encounter but not say so, or maybe even realise myself, that it was because the salesperson had smelly socks and that really put me off. I would much rather say `product over-priced’ and leave you to work on that!
Does it help him know what to do to convert a satisfied customer into one who is ‘extremely satisfied’ and would go talk glowingly about him? No.
Taking it a step further, if you get a `satisfied’ or even a `delighted’ rating, is it enough?
Simply put, satisfaction is a customer’s assessment of the gap between what he expected and what he perceives he has received. It is something he has `already paid for’. Bridging the gap is necessary but not sufficient. It does NOT automatically lead to loyalty and repeat business.
Setting the bar at `satisfaction’ is a sure-shot way to lose customers to the next the next brand that comes along that satisfies him more or who re-defines his expectations.
So what IS a worthy goal then?
Customers are increasingly looking beyond `satisfaction’ to co-creating meaningful, memorable, desirable outcomes in their brand interactions. Engaging the customer makes her come back for more. Customer Engagement – now that’s a more useful goal to aim for.
To begin to do this one needs to understand the customer’s journey beyond mere `ratings’. Studying the customer experience brings in a rich set of inputs, in terms of the goals he set from the encounter and his thoughts, actions and feelings, as he moved towards that goal. It helps us understand the `why’ of the customer action and hence gives a better handle on `what’ we need to focus on.
By de-constructing the experience by way of a customer journey map one can plot the `emotional journey’ of the customer – the first step to engineering a meaningful, memorable interaction next time round.
In summary, customer experience study goes beyond the narrow confines of a satisfaction study. It helps unearth what can be used to drive customer engagement with your brand.
In the customer’s words, “Satisfaction rating is a number you asked me to construct. It is a limited approximation of my experience. When you study my experience you understand me better – you set a better foundation to build our relationship on”
So do you need to do a customer experience survey despite having a customer satisfaction survey program?
A `satisfied’ customer is not one who is all charged up about coming back to you. It is great experiences that make one say “More, More”. Still want to settle for mere satisfaction?