Don't Irritate an Already Irritated Customer ... What the Research Says about Satisfaction

Article excerpt

You could argue that "experience management" as a concept can seem a little vague--both in terms of how you deliver it and how you measure success--and you'd be right, but only to a point.

It turns out that at least a few researchers have found ways to correlate satisfaction scores to other measures of business performance.

One of them is Foresee Results, a developer of satisfaction measurement technology used by the University of Michigan for its annual survey (conducted with the American Society for Quality) that measures consumer retail satisfaction across many industries. The scores are correlated with macro-economic measures.

The survey asks consumers, in part, about their retail interactions and customer service satisfaction. "This year, the bank satisfaction score was 74%--about average in our group," notes Claes Fornell, the University of Michigan Professor who created the index ten years ago. "Stilt, I worry about the impact of M&A going forward," says Fornell. "Consumers were disenchanted during the last consolidation wave."

Next, consider this. Experience management talks about delighting a customer and doesn't focus all that much on not aggravating customers in the first place.

But many customers that arrive at your branch are impatient, overwhelmed, or looking to fix a specific problem, and they can be sensitive to a perceived slight or tack of performance.

John Goodman, president with Technical Assistance Research Programs (T.A.R.P.), an Arlington, Va.-based research and consulting organization specializing in customer service, believes that most customers want a problem fixed when they show up at a branch.

"Usually, most customers will use a remote channel when they can--such as going to an ATM to get cash or dialing a call center to get information," says Goodman. He points out that the branch is reserved for very specific types of complex transactions or problems that aren't satisfactorily solved elsewhere and where some accountability is expected.

"And if there is further trouble in the branch, the bank can expect a drop in loyalty by at least 20%," says Goodman. To put a very concrete spin on it, for every five customers that have a problem with your bank, one will be lost. In other terms, there is a correlation between something Goodman calls "fee tolerance" and strong service. …