Everything OK?

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Remember this? “I can’t get no … satisfaction … but I try … and I try …” It put Mick Jagger on the map as one of the greatest pop singers of all time, and he’s apparently still looking for it.
Fast forward. You’re in the middle of an OK dinner at a very fine restaurant. Well, your soup was a little cold, your lettuce was soggy, and your steak was not as ordered, medium-rare. Suddenly, your waitress appears in a frenzy, and says, “How’s everything folks?” You reply, “Just fine.”
Customer satisfaction. This month I would like to address it, and I thank TEC (The Executive Committee) speakers Howard Hyden and Chuck Reaves for their input. But I want to put a strangely different twist on the subject for your consideration.
That is, not customer satisfaction, but customer dissatisfaction. I’ll call it the “silent killer” of business relationships. Let’s look at the reverse of satisfaction for a moment:
1. If you bought a product from a vendor that fails to meet your expectations, you would return it, right? In most cases, no big deal.
2. If you are in a relationship-driven situation with a vendor, then it is much more difficult to turn in your dissatisfaction for a replacement. So, you walk away.
Well, it’s this second example that’s the problem. You lose a good customer and really can’t put your finger on it. You’re thinking along the lines of what makes them satisfied. There isn’t any attention as to why they’re dissatisfied.
Certainly, you have received surveys that ask, “How satisfied are you with …?” Rate on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 is not satisfied and 5 is completely satisfied. So you put in a 3. The survey provider says, “Not bad, we’re average on this question.” Think again.
I apologize for this detour, but long ago, psychologists learned that dissatisfiers are far more powerful indicators of what people will subsequently do than satisfiers. Further, if we are somewhat satisfied with something, we’ll take it. If we are somewhat dissatisfied with something, adios!
So in business, how can we unravel this puzzle and find out what is dissatisfying our customers? Simply asking them if they are satisfied or dissatisfied won’t do the trick (“Well, the steak is fine, but a little bit over-cooked.”).
The answer is almost embarrassing. Look at hard data. Here are
some examples:
1. If you are a manufacturer, what is your units per defect ratio, instead of your defects per unit?
2. How many new business referrals do your current customers provide you?
3. What is the level of repeat business from current customers?
4. What is the history of customer complaints?
5. What is the frequency of customer calls for problems they encounter during off business hours?
Or, let’s look at it from a different perspective: “Oh, my goodness, the customer”:
1. “Our records showed it was delivered to you on time; somebody else screwed up, probably UPS.”
2. “Your 401K advisor couldn’t return your calls because of a death in the family.”
3. “So sorry, our new owner is handling your account from their European division.”
4. “Hello, you have reached Bill. I’m away from my desk right now. If you need immediate assistance, please press zero.”
5. “What are they complaining about? We shipped four days before the promise date.” (Fact: it was kept in a warehouse elsewhere at the customer’s expense for three days because it arrived early).
There are, of course, these other age-old benchmarks that result in incremental customer dissatisfaction:
1. Request for Quote (RFQ) lag times. The lead loses 1 percent of its potency for each day that it is ignored, which in turn creates a competitive disadvantage.
2. Customer volume trends. More business with a customer is a good thing; less business may or may not be a bad thing. It depends upon whether or not one of your competitors is gnawing away at your share. Either way, tracking sales by dollars or units each month is an important leading indicator of possible customer dissatisfaction.
3. Order entry error rates. An insidious source of customer dissatisfaction, these errors can result in incorrect product quantities, product features, delivery dates and so on.
4. Returns/rejects.
5. Unused product.
6. System-up time. Your customer’s actual system run times with your product vs. projected run times.
Finally, only you and your customers can really know about the potential customer dissatisfaction agitators in your business relationship. It should be evident now that simply asking, “How are we doing?” is not enough.
It’s what isn’t happening, what’s being ignored or avoided or unsaid, and the buzz of the all-knowing grapevine that are the real culprits behind bumps in the customer satisfaction road ahead. Let me let you in on a little secret. Many times, the sales force is the last group to comprehend the significance of these bumps.
Anticipate those bumps. Until next month, may your sources of potential customer dissatisfaction always be visibly blinking on your company’s radar screen.
Harry S. Dennis III is the president of The Executive Committee (TEC) in Wisconsin and Michigan. TEC is a professional development group for CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at 262-821-3340 or at hiduke@aol.com.
June 10, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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