I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about customer satisfaction. The gist of the conversation was “how much customer service is enough? What level of customer service is required to meet your goals for customer satisfaction?” The Baldrige Criteria contains a number of questions that center on customer satisfaction in Category 3 — Customer Focus. Most of the questions center on exceeding your customers’ expectation. None of the questions ask, “How do you meet your customers’ minimum service expectations?”
I think too many companies look to provide the minimum level of customer service required to maintain sales goals as opposed to trying to exceed customers expectations. Cable comes to mind for me. I’ve had cable internet and TV service for over ten years. I even had the phone service via cable for a while. The product(s) are great. The billing and other customer service are truly poor. One lengthy discussion with cable customer service resulted in my having the cable phone connection terminated because they could not explain my bill. Despite the horrible customer service, I kept the internet and TV because it wasn’t worth the pain to switch. The cable company satisficed me. The definition of the term satisfice on www.thefreedictionary.com is:
Decide on and pursue a course of action satisfying the minimum requirements to achieve a goal; “optimization requires processes that are more complex than those needed to merely satisfice”
I do all my banking and get my insurance from USAA. Every time my wife or I talk to them over the phone or via e-mail we tell each other that it is nice to talk to people that care so much. They never fail to exceed my expectations for customer service. Ask me how I feel about my cable company’s customer service.
I think it is important to know if your goal for customer satisfaction is to exceed expectations or to satisfice. Many companies do not know what they want to accomplish for customer service levels. It is relatively easy to satisfice. Exceeding your customers’ expectations for levels of service will require more work and possibly some adjustments to your company’s culture, but the payoff is huge.