What Not to Do if You Want Satisfied Customers
During a conference roundtable on challenges people had in striving to create customer satisfaction, one of the participants, Victor, described his recent experience. He said that in reviewing his customers’ requirements, he saw a way to add functionality that would give them something better than what they had asked for. So he proceeded to develop this solution, certain that exceeding expectations was the key to success. When he presented his solution to Leslie, his key customer contact, he was shocked when she rejected it outright. “It’s not what we asked for,” she told him. Period. End of discussion.
“Why even bother trying to please them?” Victor asked the group, frustration evident in his voice. “You go above and beyond and they’re still not happy.”
It took some prodding to get Victor to admit that he hadn’t alerted his customers that he was developing this grand solution. Upon hearing that admission, participants offered numerous possible explanations for Leslie’s reaction. One participant commented that some people don’t like surprises. Maybe they should be able to deal with the unexpected, but they can’t. As a result, when confronted with something other than what they were anticipating, they may summarily reject it or find fault with it.
Another participant pointed out that sometimes it’s not the solution that customers reject, but rather the fact that they had no say in its formulation. Having some input into key decisions is important to many people, and not having that input can lead them to react negatively to something they might otherwise have been receptive to.
Other possibilities: Leslie may have been acting on a mandate from her manager to create the system exactly as specified, and her next performance review may have hinged on how well she did so. Or perhaps Leslie was trying to recover from falling short in past projects, which meant she had to get the project done right—and “right” meant exactly according to requirements.
Another possibility that someone raised is that Victor may have done a mediocre job of presenting his solution to Leslie. Maybe his description was too abstract, or overly detailed, or focused on features and not benefits. Maybe he gushed or talked too fast or used too much technical jargon.
Victor didn’t know which of these possibilities, or any other, might have accounted for Leslie’s reaction. But he gradually, if reluctantly, accepted that taking matters into his own hands was not a reliable way to ensure customer satisfaction. Thanks to Victor, everyone left the session with food for thought about what can help—and what can hinder—the creation of customer satisfaction.