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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 3, No 1, March 2009

Beyond Customer Satisfaction

Could there be a more boring term than "Customer Satisfaction?" Some bean counter years ago decided to quantify the customer experience using the idea of being able to rate a customer's experience with a company in levels of satisfaction. Got bad news for the bean counters, a person is either satisfied or not with their customer experience. There is no such thing as satisfaction levels like "very satisfied" or "extremely satisfied." We are shooting at the wrong target.

If I am a satisfied customer on any level, then I probably won't notice my sales or service experience because there was nothing special about it. In other words, it was not memorable. There was nothing there that made me want to make sure that if I ever need something this company provides again that I shop around first.

The average customer just doesn't notice good, average service because they expect it. When it happens there is no memorable distraction that says this was an exceptional experience. When a customer uses your facility that customer will leave with one of three memories:
  • Wow, what a great place, I am so glad I found it!
  • This is horrible, I hope I never return here again.
  • Or there is no particular memory but no negative distractions either.
So the challenge is to decide what I can do to distract the customer in such a positive way during the retail experience that my company will be the customer's first choice anytime my product or service is needed again.

A few years ago, I needed a new set of tires for my truck. I found the set I liked at a local Firestone store and went to have them installed. One of my concerns is that my spare was going to be smaller than the new tires and was informed by Mark, the manager, that they keep old, but good tires, and would install it if they had one available at no extra charge. Whoa, pretty neat, never had that happen before! Usually there is an extra charge for the tire and installation. Unfortunately no tire was available so it did not work out.

I set up with Mark to return a week later for an alignment because of time restrictions on that visit. When I returned he had saved a tire and had it installed during the alignment. I happened to notice it but Mark said nothing when he delivered the truck to me. I asked him about it and his reply was that he had promised me a spare and had saved me that tire.

Now that is a positive memorable experience that went beyond customer satisfaction. If I needed something Firestone sold, not only did I return to that store but I would only deal with Mark, which leads us to another issue, we are people doing business with people. He had kept his promise so I did not want to risk doing business with anyone else. I could have gone to another Firestones or other tire sellers but none of them had Mark.

Unfortunately there is a down side to this story. One of my favorite things for years was to use this Firestone for vehicle state inspections. It is literally 5 minutes from my house and if I get there at opening, I can usually be done in 30 minutes or less. The last 4 visits, Mark informed me the computer was down, so no inspections and did nothing to help me to get it done later like offering to call when inspections were available, etc.

Now he had provided me with four negative memorable experiences and I was done. I probably should have given up after the second time but I liked Mark and wanted to give him another chance. There are plenty of places to buy new tires in my area and I will use one of them next time.

So we must also create consistent, positive, memorable experiences if we want to keep our customers for the long term. It always starts with the managers!
  • Do you, the manager, understand that memorable customer service is one customer at a time, that multi-tasking creates confusion and mistakes for both the employees and customers?
  • Are you encouraging your people to take quality time with customers, giving them full attention, not being in hurry and rewarding your employees great customer service with simple praises and support?
  • Are you asking your employees for their ideas about what can be done to create a memorable customer experience?
Memorable customer service can be as simple as free coffee and donuts, a candy jar on the counter, doggie treats or little toys for the kids.

Yet the most important memorable customer experience is having a stable staff where the customer can return to find their favorite person for help.

Copyright, 2009, J. Daniel Emmanuel,

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