In this article of “Is Customer Service Overrated?”, we're going to cover the question of how important is customer satisfaction.
Have you ever heard this old standard for customer service? It goes like this: “Rule #1 – The customer is always right. Rule #2 – See rule #1.” Have you ever thought that this standard was wrong? You wouldn't be the first one.
The main speech that we always seem to hear is that outstanding customer satisfaction is mandatory for success in the marketplace. Customers need to be happy, right? However, have you asked this question: is outstanding customer satisfaction really that important?
Customer Satisfaction Doesn't Equal Customer Loyalty
According to Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman, they found in their research that delighting customers doesn't build loyalty. In spite of conventional wisdom that says that we need to make customers happy, they found that customers really don't care about being happy at the end of the transaction. Instead, reducing the customer's effort to get a problem solved is the answer.
Check out their article in the Harvard Business Review here: https://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers?referral=00134
The vast majority of companies in the marketplace focus on customer satisfaction. What's interesting is that 84% of the customers who interacted with these companies told the researchers that their expectations were not exceeded during their most recent interactions. In fact, they found that customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal.
Customer Satisfaction Isn't That Easy
If we really think about it, these results may not make sense at first, but think about it a little bit. Do you want a refund for the order you placed and the item was out of stock, or do you want the item you ordered? In most cases, you want what you wanted in the first place – the item you ordered. Do you want a discount on your tab at the restaurant for the food being extremely late, or do you want your food brought to your table when you expected it? You'd rather have your order delivered promptly.
In many cases, it's easier for us to give a discount or a refund for a bad situation with a customer, but we still left the situation unresolved in the customer's mind. They think that we're not going to do any better if there is a “next time”, so they walk away and don't come back. That's in spite of our thinking that we showed great customer service by working to resolve the immediate situation by giving a refund or a discount.
Instead, they found that we should maintain a strong focus on meeting the customer's need, and not on making the customer happy. That includes reducing customer effort, recognizing and resolving issues quickly and effectively, and speaking positively as we present excellent solutions and outcomes. When we act on solving the customer's problem or need, we can cut out a lot of the expenses and give-aways that traditional wisdom tells us to do.
So what can we do better?
If you've ever watched the television series “Seinfeld” for a while, you know the character of “The Soup Nazi.” This character owns a small soup restaurant and is notoriously mean and abrupt to his customers. Here are some great clips with “The Soup Nazi”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2lfZg-apSA
The catchphrase, “No soup for you!” is synonymous with the show and even with pop culture for a time. However, he has a line out the door of his restaurant. The simple reason was because his soup is that good. This character is based on a real-life person, Al Yegenah, who owned a small soup stand in New York. This owner could care less making customers happy. He was focused on two things: serve the best soup in New York and serve it quickly and efficiently. As a result, he really maintained a long line down the street of waiting customers. They loved his soup and were willing to wait in line to get it.
See the real-life “Soup Nazi” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXgI7XsY0WQ
Consider how Al Yegenah and the HBR article fit together with these three principles:
Focus on meeting needs, not just on trying to make people happy.
Yegenah figured out that small talk with his customers wasn't efficient or profitable. Serving great soup and moving customers quickly through the line was the better approach. Not that being rude or mean is ever a good idea, but his situation proved that people can look past a grumpy person to get a great product that they crave.
Reduce the customer's stress by anticipating needs ahead of time.
Yegenah realized that his customers didn't want to wait, so he streamlined his process. He didn't want people to be angry at him for needlessly wasting their time. So he did his best to make the process quick, but with no sacrifice of quality.
Provide solutions, not reasons.
As much as Yegenah is teased about his reputation, he gives no excuses for his management style and his customer service. He doesn't justify his reasons why his little soup kitchen in Manhattan operated like it did. Instead, he focused on what he thought was best for his customers and for his company.
(Recently Al Yegenah's business declared bankruptcy, due to alleged mismanagement by his company's CFO. Despite this setback, many of the franchise locations are still open. However, the original location, which was in mid-town Manhattan, was closed in 2004.)
Bet you didn't think that the “Soup Nazi” model actually worked, did you? It did and it still does – and that should cause us to ponder why.