I’m of an age where I remember when the idea of buying water at the grocery store in little bottles would have seemed insane. Ditto $5 cups of coffee. Ditto paying $200 a month to have TV brought into your home. The list goes on and on. If you wanted water and you were under 12, you drank out of the garden hose because you were probably playing with friends in the front yard. If you were older, you turned on a faucet. If you wanted coffee, you made some unless you were at a doughnut shop in which case, you paid well under a dollar for a paper cup with coffee in it. Television came from a aerial antenna on your roof. If you were a fanatic, you had a little box that would rotate the antenna to get better reception on certain channels.
Now, not only do we pay for water, overpay for coffee and get out and out robbed to watch TV, these are considered highly differentiated products. Companies that provide products that were once commodities are now able to boast rabidly loyal customer bases. I know people who would drive past 4 Peet’s Coffee stores to get to a Starbucks. I also know people who would rather not have coffee than drink Starbucks. Not long before Starbucks came along, if someone would have asked someone on the street if he was satisfied with his coffee that morning, he would probably say yes and give you a shrug of the shoulders. If you asked him if he was delighted by his coffee, he probably wouldn’t know what to say. He’d tell you that it was coffee and walk away.
So, in days gone by, you were either satisfied with your commodity products or you weren’t. The same is probably the same today but it’s getting harder and harder to define anything as truly a commodity since advertisers and marketers work so hard to differentiate every conceivable part of every product from the product itself to the packaging and anything else connected to it.
So if nothing is a commodity, being ‘satisfied’ is no longer satisfactory. Most companies set the bar too low. If a customer returns to buy more or if they call customer support and go away with their problem solved, they are presumed to be “satisfied”. You might even employ surveys and they may even TELL you they’re “satisfied” and you may take that as confirmation for a job well done.
Ask yourself if Starbucks would be Starbucks if Howard Schultz was trying to create “satisfied” customers. He was trying to create zealots. If he failed, he ended up with satisfied customers.
How high have you set the bar? I say that you can’t be too aggressive. If your goal is to have merely satisfied customers, you may as well take “We plan to barely stay in business” as your company tagline.