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Satisfied with your experience?

24 September 2018 by Nick Sterling

Or experiencing dissatisfaction?

The difference between customer satisfaction and customer experience is something not many fully understand. In this blog I try to explain that, through my many years’ experience in the housing/construction sector.

And what better example to use than the dreaded Kitchen Renewal;

Let’s say you have a tenant/resident/leaseholder/customer* who has put up with a 20 years old kitchen that is well past its sell by date. It’s falling apart; the waste pipe constantly leaks; the floor covering is lifting; the silicone is black with mildew and the decorating leaves much to be desired. So the landlord sends in the fitters who rip it all out, install a shiny new kitchen with a few bells and whistles and a few days after it’s (supposed to be) finished the landlord sends the customer a Satisfaction Survey. The results are collated and the landlord is feeling very smug because they’ve had a great response rate and the average satisfaction is 96%.  

Wahey! Brilliant! Yet more satisfied customers!

And fair enough, those customers probably will be highly satisfied with a new kitchen. After all, they’ve got a high spec, brand new kitchen to be proud of so why shouldn’t they be grateful?

The Superficial Questionnaire

However many questionnaires are designed to get positive answers about the product or landlord but rarely do they seek to scratch below the surface to find parts of the process or supply chain that needs improving. Ask the customer a different set of questions and you’ll invariably get a different set of answers that will help you improve the experience.

Why not ask them “Did the fitters turn up on time and on the agreed day?” and “Did the works get finished on time?”, “Did they protect you and your home?” or perhaps ask them “Did they get it right first time?”

And then ask the killer question “Would you have the same fitters back to install you another kitchen, or do any other work in your home?”

Often you’ll hear answers such as “I’m really satisfied with my new kitchen and when they finally got the snags sorted it looks great” ,“ I’ve managed to get the boot prints off my hall carpet now” and “I’m happy no one is smoking in my home any more”

“…but next time, can I have different fitters please?”

And there’s the difference. The customer is highly satisfied with the new kitchen but highly dissatisfied with the poor experience of having it installed. And that means they don’t think too well of you.

Satisfaction is transactional whereas experience is emotional.

Every time it’s the emotions that influence buying decisions and recommendations but let’s take this a bit closer to home. Think of your own experience the last time you went to the supermarket, for instance. You got your shopping ok but the queues at the checkout… And the attitude of the cashier!!! Your transaction is ok but I bet you’d change supermarket if you could get a better service elsewhere. No wonder on line sales are booming!

What about getting your car serviced? Great job on the service but why do they have to slide the seat right back and change the angle just to take it from the forecourt to the garage round the back?  Why change the channel on the radio and leave it on full blast setting? Why leave oil marks on the steering wheel? It’s SO annoying!

So what’s my point?

In all of us we are influenced more by our emotions than by the cold transaction. It’s the ‘emotional feeling’ that we later remember, and that forms the basis of our memories, rather than the ‘transactional facts’. So if you focus more on getting the experience right for your customers the transactional satisfaction will follow – not the other way around.

You need a culture and the people in your organisation that truly believes in the Experience.

You need people who sincerly care about giving a brilliant service. People who are properly trained to deliver those promises. People who are genuinely empowered to take the right actions, at the right time.

Focus on recruiting the people with the right attitude for your organisation’s culture and then invest in them. Invest in training and invest in time. But be strong as well. Don’t allow your new people to change your culture to the one they bring with them or you’ll simply turn into the business they just left to join you!!

Not only will your customers be delighted with you but your staff will love working for you and as a consequence you’ll have a brilliant organisation.


Nick Sterling
About the Author

Now an independent, Nick is a very successful business leader with extensive hands on strategic leadership and P&L ownership for several major construction businesses. With a proven track record of delivering outstanding results, Nick has been a Vice President of The Institute of Customer Service for several years and recognises the value of engaging and empowering people to deliver exceptional customer service and through that, help to deliver better outcomes for less.

Connect with Nick Sterling on LinkedIn for more advice on delivering the best customer service for your business - Nick Sterling - LinkedIn

*It doesn’t really matter what nametag you give people, they’re only really interested in the service you give them. But that’s for another blog, today, I’m calling them customers.