Every marketing book tells you that the ultimate objective of any supplier of goods or services is to keep the customer satisfied.
Come to think of it, however, the concept of satisfaction is quite a tricky one to figure out, and that one often has to follow strange paths to attain it.
Take this, for instance: When my last visit to my mobile phone provider – which, by the way, resulted in them giving me the newest and most sophisticated smartphone and granting me with a reduced rate for an even more extended phone services, without me asking – was followed a few days later by a letter (oh yes you heard me: posted letter, not email!) asking me to answer a few questions designed to tell them about how much satisfied I was, I found that to be quite a normal approach.
But when a few days after undergoing a surgery the hospital sent me the same sort of a letter, I found that to be a little odd. All the more so since as soon as I got there they had me sign a discharge form preventing me from suing the medical team in case of a problem – which, they were keen on specifying without any scruples, could even result in the death of me! Did they expect me to go back there soon? After all, isn’t that the main purpose of any seeking satisfaction process?
This weird event had me examine a little more closely the notion of customer satisfaction. Essentially, I was trying to determine if satisfaction, which, after all, is just a state of mind, could be based on any objective criteria. Well, after much thought, my answer is no. Being the result of an individual evaluation, satisfaction is all too subjective. Furthermore, it is a form of subjectivity whose expression depends on a number of uncontrolable factors, most of which are nothing to do with the product or service concerned.
Go back to my phone provider. That particular day – I clearly remember it now -, I was in a very good mood, it was a sunny day, and I had no urgent business to look after. Plus there was miraculously no line to take, and the person who took care of me was a charming young lady, who was both good humored and competent. Quite an exceptional conjunction of favourable factors, don’t you think? And I’m missing a few. Now let one of these factors change and my appreciation of things would be completely different.
In short, satisfaction, in this case, depended much more on my current state of mind, which in turn resulted from totally circumstantial factors, none of which were related to my technical expectations. Of course, the rate reduction reinforced my state of mind, but in no way did it provoke it. In other words, had the circumstances been different, this particular factor – the reduction -, which otherwise was the only objective and positive outcome of my visit, would have had absolutely no incidence on a personal negative evaluation of the service.
As for the hospital, this was clearly even more subjective. For to measure objectively the quality of a hospital would be, for example, to provide some statistics relating to objective elements like stating the percentage of deaths after a particular type of surgery, or the numbers of deaths due to endogenous causes versus those due to exogenous ones, or again a study of the performance of that hospital compared with that of another, etc. But the letter was none of that. Instead, I was asked about the quality of reception – how would I know, I was dazed -, or the food – like I cared, you know, when I had no apetite for any food, and I wasn’t there for that anyway -, or again room service and atmosphere – just in case I would compare it with a hotel or disco, you know! All that knowing, of course, that I came out alive.
At second thoughts, however, in both cases I was genuinely and honestly satisfied. Objectively. And the funniest part is that I told both stories to people around me. I even went as far as to advise my friends and contacts to go there, and told them who, what and how to ask for, and it worked. Why? Because my friends are more interested to know about my own experience of things than objective statistics.
And that is precisely what TipMeOut is about. Always remember this: We are humans, not numbers. And we like those who tell us about their personal experiences, not those who hide themselves behind figures, however objective they may be.