Customer Satisfaction, the Human Factor

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There is plenty of literature on customer satisfaction and I have no doubt that this topic will go on forever. What I want to stress in this article is a fact that I did observed working with different clients from various fields, like internet, real estate, industrial goods and FMCGs. To be comprehensive I will use my own examples and experience.

Of course customer experience with the product, service or company is of huge importance, but I want to stress here that a major role is played by human interaction. I am pretty sure that humans like doing business with humans and even for companies that are not brick and mortar, the concept apply and I will develop it further in the text.

I will first relate some facts. I love playing guitar and like every passionate guitar player, I have one guitar less :). Therefore I buy guitars. Sometimes. Even if it is not recommended to buy guitars on-line (and I have to admit that the best guitar buying experience is in-store) it happened that  3 of my guitars were bought online.

One of my guitars was bought online from a huge German online store. Not too much human interaction, but you receive e-mails from persons not from the system and I have to admit, that this gives me confidence that if I have an issue I can easily solve it. The logistic service is of good quality and they always deliver. Price policy is OK and most of the time you can get a good deal. My customer experience? 7.5 out of 10. Am I happy to buy from them? most of the time. Do I talk about it? Not really. It happens to find friends that also bought from them. We are happy overall, but we do not talk too much about their services.

I had another experience buying from a British company called DV. I placed an order and I expect a “classic” on line service. But instead I received a call for the order confirmation. I even got a 20GBP discount on a 1400GBP purchase. Not big deal you would say. But it exceeded my expectations. But most of it I was impressed by the guy that called me to confirm the order and the delivery details. Did I talk about it? I still talk and give it as an example to my friends and students. And is one of my first choices even today when buying gear.

There is more. Looking for guitars I found another German online retailer that has good price offers on musical equipment. I wanted to buy a guitar from them, I received an electronic confirmation of my order, but no personal contact. I thought is OK and waited. After 5 days, no confirmation of delivery, but a hold on my card. Still waited for two more days and called the company. I managed to speak to a person and was transferred to two other persons until somebody was able to understand and explain me what happened. They apologised that they do not have the product in stock, even if on the website appeared as available. Then I checked on their website and the stock was correct. Until the next day, when the product appeared to be in stock again. Placed an order and a similar cycle followed. I bought a guitar from the other German online store because I was not able to find it in the English one.

Since last year, I discovered The Andertons. They are a British online musical instruments retailer. And I found myself checking for gear mainly on DV and Andertons, even if their websites are not so well built like the German ones. What happened? I never bought from Andertons but I still check on them? Yap! And I do that mainly because I have seen plenty of reviews with Chappers and The Captain. I had no direct interaction with the store, but I feel like I know them. How come?

My opinion is that I associate a human figure to the store.

How come then people love their BMW’s, their Mac’s, their Gibson guitars, their Gmail account even if they do not no someone from Apple, BMW, Google or Gibson? Again there is a human interaction in my opinion and even a deeper one. With your friends and you circle of people. That validate or invalidate your preference for these products or services. Think of Yahoo. Even with its problems (that some of them occurred to other online mail services providers also) I am sure that Yahoo can still provide a good mailing service. But all my friends consider Yahoo obsolete. I don’t even use it anymore. I don’t feel confident saying that I use Yahoo. Sorry Yahoo!

So creating a way to interact with people or making a way to make people interact around your product is in my opinion a crucial factor. Product comes next. I am not saying it is not important, because in the end the product should deliver. But check your human factor first. The relationship with the brand, product or service should be human in the first place.