Customer Satisfaction is Only Part of the Service Equation

I went out to lunch with a great client the other day. This is the type of pet client you go to for marketing testimonials because not only does she know the quality of your organization’s work, but also understands the quality of your organization’s culture. What I discovered was that this client—who we all thought was extremely satisfied—had some grievances to air. After my initial surprise, I thought two things: 1. I’m really glad that she feels comfortable enough to talk to me about this; I hope we’ve emphasized the benefit of this two-way communication with all of our clients. 2. Have we started to assume satisfaction among our clients?

As I started thinking more and more about the latter, I came to the conclusion that no, across the board, we have not. And I was relieved, because this assumption of client satisfaction is a dangerous and slippery slope. However, the conversation did put the dangers of assuming client happiness and equating organizational service performance with the results of customer satisfaction surveys to the forefront.

At Optimal, high client satisfaction numbers are great, but they do not mean we’ve achieved our service goals. Any organization committed to premier client service must constantly internally audit to see if organizational (not client) service standards are being met. A few times a week, I randomly choose some client project and go into our internal system where not only all technical notes about the project are chronicled, but also logs of every interaction with the client are recorded. I read through the comprehensive documentation to get the service story associated with that project. Usually, it is right in line with Optimal’s stringent standards. Occasionally, I have questions and go to the client service executive and the lead team engineer on the project to dig a little deeper. Many times, the client for which we are doing the project has sent emails or called to share their great experience with our team. I don’t skip over these projects in my review, though, and often, the team comes together to find ways that service could have been improved (even though the client was extremely happy with the service that was delivered).

Continually striving for the ideal internally will make sure that when you fall short in practice (which will inevitably happen at some point), that your service delivery will still exceed client expectations. To achieve world-class service delivery, your internal standards of service must be higher than your clients—your organization’s expectations should always exceed your clients’. While high client satisfaction ratings are deserving of a quick pat-on-the-back, they are not the barometer by which to measure your overall service delivery.

What do you think? Post your response and check back for a reply!

  • Do you agree? Do you think striving for the ideal will make it more likely that you will exceed client expectations?
  • Do you disagree? Do you think spending time on analyzing projects that were deemed “successful” by clients could be time better spent? If so, how?
  • Which organizational internal service audit methods have you witnessed or heard about?


Topics: communication, customer service