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  • Writer's pictureDr Raewyn Sleeman

Chasing the Wrong Answer? The Customer Satisfaction Myth in Small Business

Updated: Oct 18, 2023


You already know running a business isn't easy. Every decision you make impacts your growth, reputation, and bottom line.


One of the most common pieces of advice you'll hear is to ensure customer satisfaction. But here's a hard truth: satisfaction doesn't guarantee loyalty.


Loyalty means the customer is committed to your company. They're less likely to be swayed by competitors. They come back, again and again, recommend you to family and friends, and they're less sensitive to price changes. In essence, loyalty is profit.


According to loyalty expert Fred Reichheld:

  • A satisfied customer isn't necessarily a loyal one.

  • Many satisfied customers still switch to competitors for various reasons, such as a minor price difference or a slightly more convenient option.

Consider these scenarios:

  1. Online Retail: You run an online boutique. A customer might be satisfied with a one-time purchase they made due to a sale. But if it took too much effort to navigate the website or the delivery was slow, they might not return.

  2. Local Café: You own a café. A customer might love the coffee, but if they had to wait too long or couldn't find a seat, they might think twice before coming back.

  3. Home Services: You offer home cleaning. A client might be satisfied with the cleaning, but if booking was a hassle, they might opt for a competitor next time.

So, how can you ensure loyalty?


Shift Your Focus to Customer Effort Score (CES):

  • Choose the Right Moment: Ask immediately after a customer interaction.

  • Question: "How easy was it for you to [specific action] today?"

  • Use a Scale:

    • 1 (Very Difficult)

    • 2 (Difficult)

    • 3 (Slightly Difficult)

    • 4 (Neutral)

    • 5 (Slightly Easy)

    • 6 (Easy)

    • 7 (Very Easy)


  • Follow Up: For low scores, 2 or less, ask, "What made your experience difficult?"

By understanding and reducing their effort, you enhance their overall experience. They're more likely to return and recommend you.


In business, stop chasing satisfaction scores. Focus on understanding customer effort. When you make things easier for them, you earn their loyalty. And loyalty is profit.



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