Exceeding Expectations for 35 Years!

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by in Customer Satisfaction Measurement

So the sign read on the craftsman’s truck.  Wow, I thought, that’s quite a claim!  After all, expectations can be a ‘moving target’.  To make this very point, my good friend, Rob Dandrade, used to tell a story at customer satisfaction conferences (addressing the question of which is the best supra-ordinate dependent variable for the customer’s experience: satisfaction or expectations).

Welcome to Chet’s Diner

According to Rob’s parable, a group of businesspeople were on a project somewhere in the northern woods of Minnesota.  At the end of their first day on location they were ready for dinner, but didn’t have high hopes considering their ‘backwoods location’.  “You should try Chet’s Diner”, a native suggested.  A ‘diner’ sounded far less than they were hungering for, but with no other immediate option, they set out to find Chet’s Diner.   Five miles out of town, they reached Chet’s.  Instantly, a parking valet stepped up to park their car.  Inside the Diner’s entryway (decorated with a massive display of fresh flowers) a friendly maître de greeted them and promised a table would be prepared at once.  For the remainder of the evening they were regaled with an unbelievable wine list, cuisine to rival the finest New York restaurant, superb service, and surprisingly reasonable prices.  When the meal ended, their waiter treated them all to a dessert ‘on the house’.  Upon leaving they were asked to complete a short satisfaction survey.  The primary question asked, “Please rate Chet’s Diner compared to your expectations”.  They were all happy to give Chet’s the highest mark, “far exceeded my expectations”.   And, at the end of the evening, the Diner’s manager was delighted with the scores the restaurant had received.

How Can They Top That?

After work the second day, the business people all agreed there was no reason to search for any other restaurant, and they all eagerly returned to Chet’s.  The same valet service was offered, the entryway’s floral display was refreshed with new flowers, the wine list was still unbelievable, the cuisine perfect, the prices still surprisingly reasonable and a complementary dessert was again offered to them.  They were truly ecstatic.  Upon leaving they were once again asked to complete the short satisfaction survey.  Having come back to relive their previous night’s experience, this time as they encountered the primary question, they checked the middle category, “as expected”.   Reviewing the scores that evening, the manager was disappointed to find the restaurant had only met but not exceeded expectations.

And that’s the problem with striving to continually exceed expectations; your baseline is a moving target.  Expectations are simply too demanding and too unrealistic as a measure for customer satisfaction or for any business practice!  It’s far better to strive to satisfy completely…

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