259 Cowley Ave, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1Y 0H2

Understanding Customer Sacrifice: A Serious Shift

Before you started reading, you’ve likely considered your latest client survey results. In a moment I’m going to argue that whatever the results, your survey is probably bogus.

Let’s first settle on what Happy is. Happy means your customers feel a sense of belonging with you. You are a part of their lives, and your customers don’t just buy from you, they buy into you. Your customers like why and how you work, and you add value to them that transcends business. They are in loyalty with you, as Tom says.

Happy customers refer new business and are so delighted by you that they feel compelled to endorse you when the opportunity arises.

I’m not referring to satisfied.

Most of the advisors who I talk to and who want to achieve a serious shift for the better in their practice (they want to have more meaningful relationships with few clients, bring a little more structure to their business, and carve out more time to pursue their passions) tell me that they have “really happy clients.”

Customer satisfaction is defined as “…the number of customers, percentage of total customers, whose reported experience with a firm, its products, or its services (ratings) exceeds specified satisfaction goals.”

Client satisfaction is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation. So, what we think we are going to get minus what we perceive we got.

Meaning, in short, that if our experience meets or exceeds what we expect, we will say we are satisfied.

But does this mean our customers really got what they wanted? Not a chance. So are they satisfied? Or are they happy? There is a big difference.

Picture yourself sitting on an airplane. The drink cart arrives and you ask for a Diet Pepsi, and they ask you if Diet Coke is okay. Diet Coke is never okay, but you answer, “Sure, thanks.” Yes you got a drink, yes they had cola, yes it was diet but no, it wasn’t exactly what you wanted. Nevertheless, you would most likely say you were satisfied because what you perceive you got met or exceeded your expectations.

So let’s stuff customer satisfaction into a box and ignore it forever. It’s not what we are looking for. It’s too general and not precise enough.

Per Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, co-authors of The Experience Economy – mentors, influencers and all around decent guys – we have to shift our focus from understanding satisfaction to understanding customer sacrifice, which is much more important.

Customer sacrifice is a measure of the gap between exactly what a customer wants, and what they ultimately settle for.

So you can feel satisfied with what you get from a business as a customer, but only with regard to how it aligns with what you expected to get. So this sense of satisfaction could still be accompanied by a deep sense that you didn’t really get exactly what you wanted, and if someone else could …

So that customer satisfaction survey that is cited at the big kick-off meeting will never reveal, really, the level of sacrifice individual customers may be experiencing.

Is your lack of referrals from your satisfied clients starting to make sense to you now?

So how do you reduce the level of customer sacrifice and give customers exactly what they want? How about more choices?

Bad idea.

People don’t want choices, they want what they want. I want Diet Pepsi, period. I don’t care if you have a dozen diet soda options; choice is meaningless and often frustrating for the client, and often adds unnecessary complexity to business operations.

So if more choices aren’t the answer, what is?

Customization. By customizing not only the product but also the services, you shift from selling goods and services through a satisfaction focus (lots of choices but not precisely what you want) to staging experiences that have a decreasing sacrifice focus (exactly what you want and nothing else).

So here is what you need to do to make your clients really happy, happy enough to willingly if not enthusiastically endorse your professional services and the merits of a relationship with you:

  • Quit being a generalist. Stop hiding behind ‘satisfied’ and start looking at how much sacrifice each customer is making. Each client is an individual; it’s time to move beyond segmenting your clients on too-simple critieria such as assets or revenue.
  • Consider the last time you were a customer and you were so happy you didn’t want the experience to end. Don’t think about a time you were satisfied; that was this morning when you stopped for coffee. I want you instead to think about a time you were so happy you would have paid to stay longer, even if just to linger. What was it, specifically, that you so appreciated? How can you extract, if not the specific action, then the principle from your interaction and apply it to what you do? What does it say about customer satisfaction/sacrifice when coming up with an example is as difficult as it is?
  • Identify four (4) places within your customer experience that would allow for improved customization. What can you do, easily and effectively, to ensure your guests are receiving exactly what they want and nothing that they don’t? Don’t think about making it easier; think about making it more customized and memorable.
  • Consider how offering your customers more choices might be complicating the experience and adding costs while still not reducing sacrifice.

Hopefully this is going to help you see that if you pass a survey on customer satisfaction with flying colors, you haven’t really accomplished anything. You are vulnerable to a competitor who can create a buzz by staging an experience that is so perfect, it connects with and delights your clients and wins them over.

People are not looking for average. They are looking for amazing. Amazing is personal and custom fit.



Comments (2)

Love this, thanks. Was working on a client survey but struggling with what questions to ask that would get me what I want. What I really want is to be so amazing for my clients that they don’t think they can live without me and they want to tell others about me. Amazing can be different things for different people. I guess that is the customization part. Have to figure out what each client really wants.

Hey Gareth. Correct. Mass customization. We want what we want, and nothing else. Asking someone if they are satisfied is a bit of a cop out, asking someone what they truly want is courageous.

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