Thursday, June 08, 2006

You can't always get what you want, but . . .

What makes for a more satisfying online experience -- being given the experience you expect, or being given the experience you want?

It's been suggested that the answer depends on whether you've used a product or service one or more times before -- in such cases, an expectation has been set, against which future performance can be compared. Some research indicates that this is true -- if so, it may be equally true that desired performance is more important when a product or service has not been used before, since there's no basis for comparison.

The answer to this question has implications for the design of online e-commerce, marketing, service and support initiatives – all of which require high levels of customer/user satisfaction to sustain customer retention and increase market share.

In 2005, I conducted a pilot study to determine whether the role of desires exceeds that of expectations when familiarity and/or proficiency with a system type (or particular system) is low.

Data was collected by way of an online survey, generated by an online customer service engine after the resolution of an email submission. Both desire and expectation measures were taken for each of three aspects of the online support experience:

  • information provided by the support representative who handled the email;
  • courteousness of the reply; and
  • turnaround time.

One additional question measured overall satisfaction with the online support system. The final sample consisted of 30 participants, or about 17% of the total number of surveys sent.

Examination of the data determined that the satisfaction of desires (what a customer wants) does not necessarily play a more critical role than the satisfaction of expectations (what a customer expects) when overall satisfaction is high; however, desires may play a critical role when overall satisfaction is determined to be low.

Accordingly, from a business perspective, desires cannot be ignored and should be a necessary part of any customer satisfaction measure.

When overall customer satisfaction is high, the assumption that the customer is being given what he/she wants may be well founded. When overall satisfaction is low, the company would do well to ask, “ . . . but if we’re meeting expectations, what does that say about our product?”

The answer may lead them back to one of the most basic tenets of any business enterprise – “give ‘em what they want.”

(All data, analysis and findings are contained in a formal report -- contact me for more information.)

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