Improve experience through a better understanding

4 minute read

Measuring customer satisfaction doesn’t tell you how to achieve it. You can measure levels of satisfaction; you can pore over reports showing the distribution of customers across the satisfaction spectrum. All of this is helpful as far as it goes, but the problem is that it doesn’t go far enough: it doesn’t provide insight into why the customer was satisfied or dissatisfied. To achieve this, you will need to understand the customer experience.

Understand how customers feel about service

The customer experience is essentially the sum of the customer’s interactions with you – or, to be more precise, how the customer felt about those interactions. In other words, it’s subjective. Unfortunately, the customer’s subjective assessment of the product bought or service received is often widely at odds with that of the company that provided the product or service. In our experience, most company execs think their organisations provide a good customer experience. Many of them are wrong; customer dissatisfaction is widespread.  

If the reasons for customer dissatisfaction are not understood, the causes cannot be addressed. This is dangerous. Customers are increasingly empowered: they have a greater number of choices than ever before and social media has given them a voice that previous generations never had. Disappoint them and there are often many alternative options open to them; disappoint them and they may take to social media to broadcast their views and experience to the world.

So how do you understand the customer experience?

You need to get inside the customer’s head. You need to see things through their eyes. The perceived customer experience is based not just on the customer’s actual experience: it’s based on their expectations and how their actual experience stacked up against these expectations. Customer dissatisfaction occurs when the actual experience falls short of the expectation. And this isn’t always entirely rational or proportionate. Sometimes a single negative interaction can overshadow every other positive experience.

All's well that ends well? Not necessarily...

A few years ago, I took my young family to Florida for the first time. I arrived at Tampa airport and went to pick up my hire car to be told that I was at the wrong branch and needed to head downtown. When I arrived at the downtown branch I found it had closed an hour earlier.  I returned to the airport. “The downtown branch closes at noon on Saturdays,” the car-hire agent told me, “You’ll have to go back on Monday.” The staff at the desk appeared obstructive and disinterested. It took some heated conversations, a number of phone calls and the better part of an hour before I drove away in a hire car.

Would I use the company again? Not in Tampa. The car was clean and well maintained and the price was competitive. The hire car office was clearly signed, easy to find, had short queues and was air conditioned. But I wouldn’t use them again. My customer experience was based on a number of interactions. All of them except one had been positive but that negative experience at the car-hire desk overshadowed everything else.

Customer satisfaction is the sum of all the individual, component experiences. If you want to understand the customer experience, you need to deconstruct it into all the separate touchpoints – the individual component experiences. Understand what the customer expects at each of these touchpoints. Close the gap between expectation and experience and you will have happy customers. This requires insight and understanding.


Further reading:

Read about designing a customer survey to get plentiful results for feedback analysis

Read how to monitor the pulse of opinion in your business


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About author

Written by Andy Childerhouse

Andy is ViewPoint's Chief Operating Officer.

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