This is a constant question, and there are any number of different views, so I thought I would share mine.

First let me say I do recognise that, thankfully, in many cases companies are moving on from blunt satisfaction ratings, but just in case you are not there yet, read on and let me know what you think.

Every customer transaction is an opportunity

I do not come from the camp of ‘Customers getting in touch are a cost that should be marginalised’ mentality. In fact there is a strong case for all contact to be viewed as perhaps the most significant opportunity any company has for improving ROI, but that’s for another blog.

My view is that by focusing on ‘satisfaction’ as the measure of any (or the accumulation of many) transaction a customer has with your business. You don’t concentrate on what is really important in terms of building Customer Lifetime Value:

  • Have you increased the Empathy (emotional engagement) the Customer has with your Brand – Brand being the emotionally derived expression of your Companies product/service.

Why should I be focused on emotional engagement – Empathy

Put simply, humans like to do things that make them feel a) Safe and b) better about themselves – This is a theme I have previously explored, so I’m not going to go on about it in length here.

We also categorise our interactions with ‘things’ (dealings) against a hierarchy of internal motivations, moving from transactional to engaged. The problem with measuring satisfaction is that it can be more about transactional dealings that make you feel safe, than emotional engagement that makes you feel better about yourself.

So in my view ‘Satisfaction’ has a much lower order effect on future behavior than ‘Empathy’ because it’s motivational impact, especially over time, is much less indicative of future behavior, because to be satisfied you can be less engaged with a brand than you need to be to feel empathy towards (or from) it.

Fig 1.0 A view of relative importance – Satisfaction vs Empathy

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A change of focus – Going through the motions

I talk a lot about the need to create empathy. I do so because it is the single most important ingredient, in all human interactions, if the end goal is for it to be long term and mutually beneficial.

I am of course not the only one, and I keep coming back to it because in my experience a lot of people hear the words, but don’t take on board the implications.

So they change their language “we are all about increasing engagement” but not their behaviours. Gallup have some interesting research on this. Go have a look : Confusing satisfaction with engagement.

If empathy is the true measure, and engagement is the route to building empathy, which leads to the outcome of more profitable interactions for longer, it really pays to stop and think about what that means.

Changing what you do, not just what you say

It is entirely understandable that many of us (I freely admit to having done so in the past, and most likely will again in the future) adopt a new approach, or metric, without fully understanding it, or engaging with it if you like.

So in this context, if you are talking about, or even implementing a shift from satisfaction to engagement in your company, firstly – congratulations and welcome to the fold.

Secondly, if it help’s, here are some food for thought ideas:

  • Try not to carry on measuring the same things, and simply change the definition to engagement.
  • You cannot ask customers if they are engaged, well you can, but the answer might not be helpful.
  • But you could do things like:
    • Think about asking customers if they felt better about the brand before or after the interaction
    • Does the brand: add to; subtract from; or have no impact in their everyday lives
    • Has the contact had no impact, or made them feel glad they got in touch
  • Of course ultimately you should have a clear idea of what your Brand values are, and then ask questions that relate to them
    • For example did the interaction make you thing we were more, or less innovative.

Now given this is a blog and not a sales pitch (though of course to some degree, it is both), I shall apply the ‘concept brakes’. Let me just say that this type of values matching analysis is coming of age, so increasingly there is no excuse for not stepping up to the plate measurement wise.

Every Interaction is a chance to move from satisfied to empathetic

So my premise is a simple one:

Treat every interaction with a customer as a ‘golden moment’

As usual the execution is much more difficult. After all you are going to have to work out what your brand stands for. Though to be honest if you don’t know, you can ask your customers that as well.

In that golden moment you have the opportunity to shift a customer closer to feeling empathy with your brand. This works especially well in ‘service recovery’ where the old adage of a problem solved well, results in a highly bonded customer.

On that point, this is because a customer with a problem is already more emotionally engaged with you i.e. operating higher up the needs hierarchy (remember transactional stuff at the bottom left – emotionally bonded top right). So get that right and leave then feeling better about themselves, which translates into being more engaged with you.

Anything else?

To me there are three words that anyone who is trying to build Customer Lifetime Value, need to keep discreet, or distinct.

They are:

  • Satisfaction – which is a transactional expression of how somebody felt about that interaction.
  • Empathy – which is the emotional measure of how much someone felt better about them selves as a result of that (or many) interaction.
  • Engagement – which is the process by which you go about creating empathy. This is about identifying & satisfying needs, wants & values.

If you avoid the trap of confusing these then you already a long way along the road to generating more value, for longer.

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