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Forget Delight, Customers Just Want Their Expectations Met

Vikas Mittal

Special treatment can provide momentary satisfaction, but research shows the sustainable and more effective way to make customers happy is to simply avoid disappointing them​

Many executives believe that managing their customers’ experience will improve customer satisfaction and sales. Yet attempts to articulate customer experience typically yield little to no actionable insights. This is because many companies think of customer experience as a subjective exercise that cannot be precisely defined. But customer experience can be precisely defined and measured in terms of the things that satisfy and dissatisfy customers. 

For the last two decades, marketing scholars have developed algorithms to statistically identify satisfier and dissatisfier attributes of customer experience. My colleagues and I have analyzed hundreds of attributes in dozens of industries to identify satisfiers and dissatisfiers. Our research reveals how satisfiers and dissatisfiers can be used to analyze customer experience.

Attributes are defined by their impact on overall customer satisfaction. Typically, satisfier attributes are hedonic, sensorial, “nice to have” attributes of a product or service that are not considered critical to the basic utility customers get. At a hotel, a chocolate on your pillow would be a satisfier attribute. Dissatisfier attributes are fundamental aspects of customer experiences, must-haves that deliver the basic utility customers expect from the product or service experience. At a doctor’s office, an accurate diagnosis is a dissatisfier attribute.

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Vikas Mittal

Vikas Mittal, Ph.D., is a member of the faculty at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in Houston, Texas.