Return on Behavior Magazine
Home for marketing and customer service professionals

Customer Experience

September 26th, 2009

The dangerous customer

What is a dangerous customer?  It is not necessarily a customer that is threatening you with a knife or a gun.  (That is not just a dangerous customer, but a dangerous person.)

What we are discussing in this article is the customer that puts you into the “danger zone” of lost business.  We aren’t talking about customers who have a complaint about you and choose to tell everyone they know.  We are talking about that potentially very dangerous type of customer, a “satisfied” customer.

But wait!  How can we be in danger of losing a satisfied customer?

Recently, two professors, Anthony J. Zahorak and Roland T. Rust, from Vanderbilt University conducted a study on customer satisfaction.  What they found was that approximately 25% to 40% of satisfied customers do not come back to the places of business where they have been satisfied.

Wait a minute!
Why would a satisfied customer not come back?  The answer is very simple.  Because,
they were simply satisfied.  Everything was satisfactory, nothing great, just okay.
For example, you may have gone out to dinner at a restaurant.  The next day a friend asks you about your meal and you tellthem it was okay.  Nothing special, simply average.  Another way of putting this… satisfactory.

Will you go back?  With all of the choices of places to dine and spend your hard earned dollars, probably not.  No, unless you are a glutton for punishment, you will most likely look for the restaurant that givesyou a great meal,  great service and exceeds your expectations.

The types of businesses that the Vanderbilt professors looked at were typical front line,
consumer oriented businesses such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, retail stores, etc.  It is obvious that not all usinesses fall into one of these categories, but the principle still holds true.  Anybody or any companythat has any type of competition needs to understand that having satisfied customers creates ulnerability.   Not only do you have to exceed a customer’s expectations, but you also need toconstantly be improving on what already may be great.

What worked yesterday does not work today. If you are doing something better than your competition you can bet that they will be doing the same thing very soon.

An industry example
The hotel industry is a good example of this.  Many years ago the typical hotel customer didn’t have the xpectations or make the demands for great service that they do today.  All the customer wanted was aclean room with a television set and a hot shower.  Then one day a serious competition for hotel ustomers began.  Rate wars began.  Less expensive rooms may have been was one way to compete,but not necessarily the best.  There had to be more.

One day a sharp hotel owner decided that amenities could create a competitive edge.  It worked!

It started out to be simple; thicker towels, fancier soaps, etc.  Then the competition, the hotel “across the treet,” figures out what was going on, and not to be outdone, copied. The next wave of amenities weresparked, such as better candy on the pillows and a newspaper in the morning - and not just one paper - perhaps a choice of different newspapers.  At what point did it stop?  Eventually, everybody wasoffering the same thing.  It was at that point that the biggest difference between one hotel and another ad to do with the people that worked there.  The hotel employees became the ultimate “amenity.”

Product great - service mediocre
If what you sell is great, but your service is mediocre, then the best you can expect is limited success and ventually total failure as competition comes along and takes care of the customers by giving betterservice.  But put a great product in the hands of people willing to go beyond typical levels of customer ervice and you get beyond being simply satisfactory.Today’s customers expect more than satisfactory experiences with the people and organizations they do usiness with.  Every company has their version of a “hotel’s amenities.”  Just about every businessclaims to give good or great customer service.  Good service has become the norm.  An organization as to go beyond satisfactory  or just acceptable levels of service.  Terms used to describe this higherlevel of service have been knock your socks off service, delighting the customer, and many more.

Get our customers out of the danger zone.  Go beyond simply satisfying your customers and you will create many MOMENTS OF MAGIC

About the Author

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken, CSP, is a professional speaker and author who works with companies who want to evelop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs, books, tapes and learning programs contact or visit his website:


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