When a customer gives you the highest possible scores on satisfaction and loyalty, it’s understandable that you may feel compelled to declare victory and shift your attention to the next relationship.  Time to break out the champagne!  Unfortunately, you may want to wait before popping the cork.  We find that in a surprising number of the surveys we perform, highest-score customers also offer negative feedback in their open-ended comments.  So, while you may have scored a 10-out-of-10, your work is not yet done.

My point in highlighting this fact is not to demoralize you, but to arm you with a counterintuitive insight that may help you improve your customer loyalty efforts in three ways:

1. Turn your recommenders into super advocates.  In word-of-mouth marketing, an elated customer beats a merely satisfied customer, even though both may rate you a “perfect” 10.  When I need to hire a contractor for home or yard work, I use online reviews to research my options.  I typically find 5 or more “A” rated suppliers for any given job, but usually only go to the trouble of getting bids from two or three.  I select my final shortlist based in part on the level of passion in the customer reviews.  For me, there’s a real difference between “ABC Co. did a good job and I’d recommend them, despite a couple of communication issues”, and “I can’t recommend XYZ Co. highly enough – they exceeded my expectations at every turn.

2. Prevent your best relationships from deteriorating over time.  Although a customer may give you a 10 today, they may not do so in perpetuity if certain issues are left unaddressed.  In the same way that even minor water leaks can do major damage to a home given enough time, the inevitable and forgivable minor flaws in your customers’ experience may consume an increasing amount of goodwill over time.  Paying attention to negative feedback from your happiest customers will help you keep those relationships strong for the long haul.

3. Strengthen customer loyalty across the board, not just among your happiest customers.  As you analyze negative feedback from your most loyal customers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that many of their issues and complaints are similar to those expressed by your less loyal and satisfied customers.  By identifying and addressing these common issues first, you’ll not only capture the first two benefits above among your already loyal customers, but you’ll also boost loyalty in the rest of your customer base.  In other words, focusing on making your happy customers happier doesn’t mean ignoring the rest of your customers.

Today’s post reminds me of the latter part of the saying “not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.”  While it’s important to quantify customer feedback, accompanying it with qualitative feedback via mechanisms such as open-ended comments is often just as important.  It helps you more deeply understand why your customers gave you the scores they did, and, in the case of 10-doesn’t-equal-perfect, it helps you discover unexpected opportunities for improvement.

Doug

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