Customer Service, Experience, Satisfaction and Delight

In his first Thursday Night Insight article, B2B International China general manager, Alaric Fairbanks, assesses the impact that differing expectation levels have on how satisfied customers will be with any product or service they receive.

When was the last time you were delighted by your experience as a customer? Will you get the same experience next time? If so, will you be merely satisfied rather than delighted?

In a post a few weeks ago my colleague, Matthew Harrison, talked about customer service in China, in particular in the restaurant trade. I have to agree that in Beijing this sector is outstanding, but when it comes to expressing my levels of satisfaction, myself, along with almost everyone I know, would expect this to be the norm, so outstanding food, good service and reasonable price, would, say on a scale of 1-5, get a 3. Prior to moving back to Beijing, a scale of 1-5 would barely have been enough to contain my levels of delight with what I now consider normal.

When looking at a single market, be it food in Beijing or Liquid Chromatography in Chinese research laboratories, the weight of experience and expectations is not a major issue, and indeed is useful benchmarking. If, however, as frequently occurs, we are asked to “find out how satisfied our customers are in Hong Kong, Mainland China, across Asia Pacific, etc” the differing levels of background noise from customers’ past experience and hence expectations can make such comparisons problematic.

On multi-country studies, it is quite common to find satisfaction levels in emerging markets for some products to appear higher than in mature markets. Does this mean that customers are easier to please than their “sophisticated” counterparts? Definitely not. Let’s go back to the restaurant industry in Beijing: these same customers, myself included, can be demanding, or stingy even, in their assessments; however, take me to a bank in Beijing, and if I have a wait of less than half an hour and am able to complete my transaction in one visit, I would leave feeling extremely satisfied. We certainly need to be aware of experience and the expectations or weighting that it brings to expressing satisfaction, and make sure that we are able to account for these in our findings.

Finally, even though we have to bear in mind what customers may have experienced previously in different markets, and this may help us gauge what will satisfy them, we cannot overlook local requirements. Recently we had a client producing some very expensive and technical equipment for the health care sector – probably the leader in terms of quality in their particular product range. Despite ranking very highly on all factors they considered important, they scored surprisingly low on overall satisfaction, simply because the technical manuals were only in English.

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