On the ongoing question:Is customer satisfaction dangerous?

Fact: If we simply strive for Customer Satisfaction…we are likely to fall short in the long term.
I am reminded of the quote from Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for.”

We need to  stretch further to target ‘Customer Ecstasy’…that way if we fall short we may reach Customer Delight which is definitely a notch or two above mere Customer Satisfaction.

Customer expectation has never higher than it stands today. The Internet, social media, rapid access to current, up-to-date competitive information and knowledge all combine to make the customer increasingly more aware and knowledgeable about what is going on in the market place. And with that awareness and knowledge comes the higher expectation from suppliers, goods, products and services that the customer is shopping for.

So how does one go about attaining Customer Ecstasy?
Here are my thoughts:

Step 1. Based upon your product or service line, create a comprehensive list of what you believe your customer expectations, requirements, needs and wants are (of your product and/or service)
Be creative and think outside the box to identify the more subtle, latent or hidden expectations or requirements the customer may have of your product or service (Implied needs)

When you have performed this brainstorming and information gathering session you may want to verify your findings by interviewing a sample set of customers to make sure you have not missed anything.

Step 2. Bring together a cross functional team to perform step two – analysis of your brainstorming outputs of the customer’s expectations, requirements, needs and wants of your products and services.
(Cross functional to ensure that you are touching al of the potential intersect points or ‘moments of truth’ between your organization and that of the customer.)
Think Finance, Marketing, Consulting, Solution Design & Delivery, Sales, Service and after Sales Support.
Draw up a list of what your team has come up with in terms of customer expectations that you believe you are in a position to fulfill already. Think through how  you can enhance the existing deliverables you are already providing to your customers for greater value add.

Next draw up a list of the expectations and customer requirements that you know you are currently not delivering to. These are the ‘White Spaces’ in your customer environment where you can create opportunities for strengthening your relationship with your customer, as well as to increase your penetration in terms of goods and services sold.
Prioritize this list based on:
a. Your ability to address them (think budget, technology enhancements, personnel, skills, etc)
b. Your competitor’s and their relative position vis a vis these unfulfilled customer expectations (are they doing better than, worse than or equivalent to you with regard to fulfilling these customer expectations/requirements)

Step 3. Develop an action plan to drive the changes required in your product/service strategy starting from the highest priority un-fulfilled customer expectations/requirements and moving through the lesser ones.

Select a few pilot accounts where you can implement your proposed strategy (ensure you have a mix of satisfied, dissatisfied and neutral customers for the pilot exercise)

Perform a customer survey after the pilot exercise to measure the changes in the customer perception in terms of how your product or services meet/exceed the customer expectations both explicitly stated and Implied (latent needs and wants that are seldom stated, and/or anticipated, future needs)

Make sure that you monitor areas of implementation that did not go so well and remediate the process to ensure that these issues are addressed for future implementation.

Best of luck in your ‘Customer Ecstasy’ endeavor!

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