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The myth of customer retention and satisfaction

The myth of customer retention and satisfaction

Can we talk about my all-time favorite subject? I am referring to the implied power of customer satisfaction. I am so enthusiastic about the distinction between happiness and customer satisfaction that I built an entire company around this premise.

If the bar in your business for generating loyalty and acquiring a fan base is to have “satisfied guests,” I invite you to take a little trip with me. For those of you who have been riding along with me for a while, this will be old hat. For new readers, you will often hear me speak about how the language we choose shapes our lives and the results that follow.

In my opinion, focusing on customer satisfaction as a barometer for excellence and loyalty is akin to a bride wishing for a satisfactory marriage or telling your friends about your satisfactory dog or even your satisfactory shoes. When we spend our money, we all want more than mere satisfaction, so let’s talk about what we really want.

With rare exception, people want to love their mate, their pet, and for some of us, we prefer to have a closet of shoes we love versus satisfactory shoes, as in, “My feet get a little soaked when it rains, but if I stick this newspaper in them, it’s okay.” Satisfactory.

How does this translate to hotels? I daresay that we assume our guests are satisfied when we don’t receive a complaint from them, and we hope they will return the next time they are in town. (You may recall that hope was never taught as a strategy in business schools.)

When I deplane and my luggage meets me at the carousel, I am satisfied. People paid attention to my route. If another airline lowers its fare next time I fly, I will probably jump ship, as I have several airline rewards cards. Satisfaction isn’t enough.

To assess our guests’ satisfaction, we ply them with surveys. Most of these pose questions that are quantitative in nature and keep us apart from our guests’ emotional response to their experience with us, yet we all know emotional relationships build brands. While it is common for hoteliers to pepper their language with the word “experience,” many are lacking methods to determine such.

I’ll save how we can create ways to gather really meaningful and quality information for another article. Suffice to say for this article that these surveys are designed to measure the low bar of satisfaction where the already expected meets the most basic of expectations. Clean room, friendly staff, food was hot. Expectations met —check. Satisfied — check. Not a “wow” in sight.

“We want satisfied customers” has a much different ring to associates than, “We will do whatever it takes to be number one in our guests’ hearts.” I hope you can hear the distinction and intention behind each. It is through the language we choose that we make our intentions clear, and our culture and training programs are then built on top of that. If it were me, I would raise the bar of expectation higher than what “customer satisfaction” implies.

Fasten your seat belt. Here come the L and H words — out of the closet forever (also not big on the business school circuit). Your guests want to love you and they want you to make them happy. Anything less is “myth” information. Create standards from the heart, and their hearts will be yours. If that is your paradigm, then love for your business will surely follow.

People spend from their wallets but buy from their hearts.

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