In Branding

In his tight trousers, Mick Jagger’s pouting lips mouth those famous words… “I can’t get no … Satisfaction”. It was an anthem for an entire disenfranchised generation but still resonates today in many of our customer touch points. Everyday we disappoint customers and let them down. Sometimes we can’t even do the basics right.

Lower Your Expectations!

Satisfaction is an easy enough concept to grasp. It is created in the space between Expectations and Experience. If the experience you have meets your expectations you are ‘satisfied’. If the experience falls short of expectations you are Dissatisfied.  See I told you it was an easy concept.

Take the simple example of a children’s birthday party. Imagine the little girls’ excitement when her mum tells her she is going to make her a cake from her favourite Disney movie. The girl eagerly anticipates her Princess Ariel cake. And on the day, well let’s just say expectations aren’t met!!

Ariel Cake

Letting down a customer is never good. But even just ‘satisfying them’ is no longer enough. Just ‘meeting’ their expectations is not a way to drive brand advocacy. Today we have to surpass their expectations, moving to delight them. In his book Marty Neumeier talks about a satisfaction brand ladder which I’ve adapted in the image below.

Today if we are to harness the true power of peer-to-peer we need to delight shoppers so they share their story and empower them to be part of our brand tribe. Level 2 and up is always the aim.

Doing the Basics Right

So why do so many brand and product experiences still suck, sliding below even Level 1? Call centres are usually a great example. Agents who don’t listen or understand, an eternity on hold, your issue unresolved. I love this video below as it captures perfectly the disillusionment on both sides of the call centre interaction.

Unfortunately it’s funny because it’s true. Today we still fail to deliver basic customer service or invent unnecessary friction points for customers. As I write this blog post I am on a flight home having been failed by both KLM and Ryanair in different ways. Today both haven’t even achieved Level 1, despite all the investment in systems, data and re-engineering their CX approach.

I Want it Now

Today we live in an ‘Instant Gratification’ world. We are connected at all times to our friends and work. Snapchat, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Instant Messaging has rewired us to expect immediate feedback, not just on Apps but in our daily lives as consumers.

For customer service this has spawned the ‘Live Chat’ model, perfect for the kind of interactions customers expect today. I was stranded in an airport courtesy of KLM so had sorted myself out and bought a Ryanair ticket. Their app and website was throwing up error messages as I tried to check in so I clicked on Live Chat. This was what I got.

Now some might argue “well fair enough they had capacity issues and they kept you informed in terms of time frame”. Well yes, they managed my expectations alright, by showing me how low they should be. There is nothing ‘live’ about an 11 minute wait! It is a Level 1 fail.

In this simple example we have the core of the issue. Brands ticking a box  (live chat. yes..have that) as opposed to truly understanding how and why it needs to work.

Gen Z and the Millennial consumer don’t wait.  Everything in their lives is instant. Their location on a map, connection with friends, Google feeding them anything they need in terms of information, video or products. They are not the ‘buffering’ generation! Compare that to my youth.

I played audio tapes into a Commodore 64 for 20 minutes so I could play the simplest of games, mail order was a standard 28 day delivery and if you missed your favourite TV programme, well you’d just have to wait until next week to catch up.  Waiting was something you ‘did’ (I’ve just realised I’ve turned into one of those ‘well in my day…’ people. Oh well!)

But even I don’t like waiting anymore, it’s not only the digital natives who want instant, it is everybody. The smartphone has changed our expectations in terms of instant. We haven’t just gone up a gear. We’ve traded the car in for a jet plane. As consumers we demand it NOW. And we’re right. The customer always is.

Understanding ‘NOW’

Which brings us back to Ryanair. When a customer is using an App or any digital solution every click has to work, to bring you where you need to go or give you what you need. When it doesn’t, you slip below Level 1, failing to meet expectations. Clicking on Live Chat and seeing an ’11 minutes wait’ message is not just a system fail, today it is a culture fail.

But at least they flew me home once it was all sorted (I sorted out my App error problem myself in the end.  I lost interest waiting for ‘live’ chat!). It was more than what KLM managed today abandoning me due to their delayed flight, failing to inform me of the next cancellation and ultimately leaving me to find and book my own solution home. Level 0 and Game Over.

But of course none of us are perfect! My daughter once saw an image of an Olaf pancake and asked her Dad if he could make one. “no problem” I answered. Turns out her ‘expectations’ didn’t match my ‘experience’ in creative pancake art and my creepy Olaf gave her nightmares for weeks!

Maybe I should stick to wearing tight trousers and singing Rolling Stones songs….


Ken Hughes is one of the worlds leading Shopper and Consumer Behaviouralists, blending his vast expertise in consumer psychology, social & digital anthropology, behavioural economics and neuromarketing to answer the question to which he has dedicated most of his career: Why do shoppers buy and how can we make them buy more? Click here to read more

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