The survey results came in this morning and 98 percent of your customers were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied.” Time for celebration? No way! Time to get to work. The harsh reality is that high satisfaction ratings do not necessarily mean that a firm is going to retain a customer forever (Lowenstein, 1993). Further, according to Hoffman and Bateson (2004), on average, 65 percent to 85 percent of customers who defected to competitors said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their former providers. So what’s the problem? Here’s what marketers must always remember:
- What did your customer satisfaction research tell you about tomorrow’s needs of today’s customers? Not much! Beware being lulled into a false sense of security by customer satisfaction research, for as McDonald (2007) reminds, “What changes in the course of time is the way people satisfy their needs.” Remember when Blackberry dominated the smartphone market? Or when the BMW MINI was a very hot seller?
- Satisfied customers may engage in variety seeking behaviour. Do you dine at the same restaurant every time? Sometimes we switch just for the experience of trying something new or different, even when we are quite happy with our present provider. That’s the reason why so many marketers invest so much in sales promotions, encouraging shoppers to, “Try; and then buy!”
- You’re not the only game in town. There’s always competition, and when you are the market leader they watch you like a hawk. Market challengers abound. Besides, every marketer should know how profitable the strategy of “following closely” can be. In a word, they want your customers?
What does all this mean for marketers? Never be comforted by customer satisfaction surveys. They are only a snapshot at a particular point in time; and rarely an indicator of future company performance. That’s why the goal of astute strategists is to move from being market leaders to becoming the “market drivers.” How? By creating a set of strategies and tactics that move customers, competitors and others in a new direction.
Driving the market? Now that’s the domain of the only the most skilful marketing strategists. Are we there yet?
Herman D. Alvaranga is a marketing and sales strategist.