5 Customer Satisfaction Secrets from the Best – and the Worst

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customer satisfaction secretsThere are many, many examples of companies who have insanely satisfied customers. However, rather than list these paragons, let’s take the time to dig a little deeper about how they create this level of customer satisfaction. Because, while each of these companies is in a different industry, we can all learn something from each of them.

Lesson #1: What Gets Measured Gets Done

First, let’s look at Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based chicken sandwich restaurant. Defying the odds that a fast-food restaurant can also deliver attentive service, Chick-fil-A sets its service by measuring. Chick-fil-A spends over $1 million dollars annually in measuring customer satisfaction at the store level, at the corporate level and every way in between. Every Chick-fil-A operator gets a monthly report on how their store compares to all the other stores. Each store manager uses their results to make incremental improvements in operations and service delivery that keep customers happily returning to their stores.

Lesson #2: The Devil is in the Detail

One small way Chick-fil-A creates customer satisfaction is in its attention to detail. Chick-fil-A operators are encouraged to share even the smallest details so that they can be standardized system wide.  For example, when you thank your server as you leave the restaurant counter, you server will say, “My pleasure.” When your call is transferred from the receptionist at Chick-fil-A headquarters, the receptionist will also say “My pleasure.” In another recent example, Chick-fil-A is borrowing a tip from other hospitality companies and is folding the toilet paper in the restrooms into triangles, making it easier for patrons to access. This consistent attention to the smallest detail communicates the similar level of attention being paid to the bigger issues. Moreover, that helps create satisfaction.

Lesson #3: Be Customer Obsessed

Amazon.com, for the fifth consecutive time, tops the 2014 24/7 Wall Street  Customer Service Hall of Fame list. That is perhaps not surprising, given CEO Jeff Bezos’ passion for creating excellent customer service experiences in the digital era. In the early days, Bezos used to bring an empty chair with him into meetings, explaining that it was for “the most important person in the room – the customer.” More recently, he has said,We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs, and we work backward.” Which may explain why the Kindle HD Fire was introduced with a “Mayday” button, which connected the user to a customer service person in less than 10 seconds – an unprecedented level of responsiveness.

Lesson #4: Tell A Great Story

Trader Joe’s is a grocery store chain known for their insanely satisfied customers. Beyond fast checkout, good selection, and good value, how can a grocery store drive customer satisfaction? (And here we distinguish between customer frequency and satisfaction: you may go to the store every week, but you might not be completely satisfied with the experience.) The ‘typical’ grocery story is merely a clean warehouse,” said Adrian Weidmann, principal, StoreStream Metrics. “The two most challenging, elusive and yet most effective operational ‘home runs’ for your brand are atmosphere and courteous staff. When you go to Trader Joe’s, you are experiencing a ‘story’. Trader Joe’s is a brand that is very good at storytelling and bringing that story to life.”

Lesson #5: Do it even if you don’t have to

It is easy to learn lessons from those companies who excel at customer service. However, what can you learn from companies whose customers are among the least satisfied. The 24/7 Wall Street poll revealed not only the best companies for customer satisfaction, but also the worst companies. How can they get away with customers who are not satisfied? Apparently, those companies with the lowest rated customer satisfaction for the most part don’t have to worry about customer satisfaction as much because their customers don’t have many good alternatives. Satellite and cable television companies such as Dish and Comcast and telephone companies fall into this category.  The lesson here is, that even if you don’t have a problem with customer churn, you should seek to fully satisfy your customers even if you feel that you don’t have to.  Sometime customers may have an alternative, and you will have no accumulated good will to keep them as customers.  Ask Blockbuster Video.  Satisfying your customers is just good business.

Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction inoculates your company against potential business downturns, strategic miss-steps, and competitive inroads. Periodically measuring your customers’ satisfaction to understand how your business is doing is a critical business activity that all strong businesses undertake. After all, if you don’t know whether your customers are satisfied, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

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Christian Wright

Christian Wright is the VP of Client Services at Infosurv. With a master’s in marketing research, he’s equipped to design actionable research that yields impactful insights and drives change.