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“Knowledge is the process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” – Martin H. Fischer, American Scientist, educator, and author

Focusing on Customer Delight is an admirable goal, identifying the specific issues that have the biggest impact on the customer experience is where the real work begins.

I call them “Key Drivers” of delight and dissatisfaction.

Drivers of delight are outstanding service or product related features that help build customer loyalty. Drivers of dissatisfaction are problems and other shortcomings that damage your relationship with customers.

Finding these drivers is one of the most important steps in the entire business improvement effort. Because once we identify the drivers, we can develop targeted initiatives to increase customer delight and eliminate customer dissatisfaction.

These improvements in turn, boost customer loyalty, decrease attrition, increase share of wallet and generate favorable word of mouth advertising, which helps attract new customers.

A brief introduction to drivers inspired by my refrigerator

Let’s consider the impact of a common household appliance – the refrigerator – on delight and dissatisfaction.

When I take the milk out of the refrigerator, I don’t say, “Wow! That’s cold. Isn’t that great?” And I don’t sing the praises of the manufacturer either, because I expect the milk to be cold. That’s why I bought it in the first place. In other words, the refrigerator isn’t a driver of delight, because its just doing it’s job. And that’s exactly what I expect.

But what happens if the refrigerator goes on the blink? The unexpected failure is going to spoil the milk and make me very unhappy. If I go to the extreme, I will probably never buy anything else that carries that brand again — whether it’s a stove, microwave, vacuum cleaner, or anything else.

From the manufacturer’s standpoint, that’s bad enough. But the situation can get even worse. After all, I will probably tell friends and family members about my unhappy experiences with the refrigerator. And some people I talk to avoid that brand in the future too.

That gives you some idea of the huge impact drivers of dissatisfaction can have on customer loyalty, word of mouth advertising and the bottom line.

Drivers change with the times

Now, let’s turn back the clock, and you’ll see a different side to the refrigerator story. After all, when the electric version of the icebox first hit the market, people were delighted. Even if it didn’t work perfectly all of the time, it was still a driver of delight, because it provided a new exciting, time-saving convenience. As the years passed, however, reliable refrigeration became so commonplace that it lost its ability to delight people.

So what happened? Manufacturers add icemakers, cold water taps and other bells and whistles. And for a while, each of these innovations did cause customer delight. Then they too became commonplace features that met – but did not exceed – customer expectations.

 Five things you should know about drivers

The reason I bring up the refrigerator analogy is this: it helps people understand some important points about drivers that have a big impact on every industry.

  1. Drivers of delight help drive long-term loyalty. But it can’t be a one time experience. Customers have to be wowed on a regular basis before they become loyal to your brand.
  2. Drivers of dissatisfaction aren’t just isolated problems. They can spoil the customer’s relationship with the entire brand. And you may never be able to get them back.
  3. Drivers of delight lose their “wow” power when they become commonplace in the market. Why? It’s simple. People’s expectations have been raised. So the drivers no longer exceed those expectations.
  4. Once drivers of delight become commonplace, they can turn into drivers of dissatisfaction if they are scaled back or eliminated. Since customers expect those drivers, they are dissatisfied by the “takeaway.”
  5. Drivers of delight and dissatisfaction change over time for a simple reason: the world is always changing around us. And some of the changes that take place inside your industry or outside significantly alter the perceptions and expectations of your customer.

Your customers sit in the drivers seat

That’s why your work on key drivers has to be an ongoing process. It begins with extensive customer research. Then you analyze the feedback to pinpoint specific issues that have a positive or negative impact on the customer experience (I have found the Kano Model to be the best approach ). Once you find the drivers, it’s time to begin the improvement process.

Bottom line? This whole effort to identify and address key drivers plays a vital role in a company’s success. After all, it provides the information that you can act on to delight the customer. It also inspires innovative ideas that put high-octane fuel in your tank. So you can open up a big lead over your competition.

That’s what happens when you use these drivers to speed up progress on the road to success.

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