Bill Nichols

26 February 2015

Bill Nichols

If You Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Ad Astra 022 – 26 February 2015)

For many firms, Satisfaction is an obsession.  They follow Mick Jagger’s  mantra:  “I try and I try and…”  They make it the judge-and-jury.  They blazon it on the corporate balanced scorecard.

But, guess what, customers still defect.  Including 65-85% of the satisfied ones, as marketing guru Fred Reichheld demonstrated nearly 20 years ago.

Many grumbling CEOs probably agree with Mick’s later sentiment in ‘I Can’t Get No..’.  It’s all “some useless information/Supposed to fire my imagination”.

But before you ‘fire’ satisfaction – and try some new fad – here’s a cunning thought (and some new research)…

The Wrong Sort of Satisfaction

….You’re probably measuring the wrong sort of Satisfaction.   (Like the old British railway joke about the ‘wrong sort of snow’).

Last Train to Satisfaction Junction

Last Train to Satisfaction Junction

Your sort, you see, is probably the rational one.  Most Satisfaction measures presume rational, reflective assessments of utility and value.  They apply the ‘disconfirmation paradigm’.   This model subtracts your pre-purchase expectations from your post-purchase perceptions.

The Rational Way

Imagine.  Your new partner invites you out to dinner.  You expect, say, a perfectly acceptable, average French restaurant.  You get:

  • The Ritz.   You are blown away.  On every aspect. This is positive disconfirmation;
  • Greasy ‘Fish-and-Chips’ at the local down-market pub.   Serious problem: negative disconfirmation.
Mine's A Pint of Satisfaction

Mine’s A Pint of  Disconfirmation!

All fine so far as it goes.  Scorecard happy!  Unfortunately, this sort of Satisfaction is only a short-term (weeks) predictor of retention and repurchase.  Like a blip on the chart.  And highly susceptible to competitive advertising (*1).

The Emotional Way

Marketers, of course, focus long-term.  Established research on the emotional side of Satisfaction demonstrates that we connect, enjoy richer experiences and are far more likely to remain loyal if

…If we feel fair treatment, pleasure, ‘belongingness’.

Such feelings take longer to nurture. No scorecard surge.  But they are far more robust.


  • Your partner is really rather fond of that pub. A ‘regular’ for years and usually meets most of his/her friends there.  The conversation is good and the food generally ok.

So the morning after your disaster?  OK your partner is temporarily dissatisfied.   But a few weeks later? They’re just as regular (and happy) as before.  You’re even getting used to it yourself!

What To Do?

The recent research summary (*1) highlights four beneficial emotional engagements.  To:

  1. Adopt and promote customer values e.g. social responsibility (pub charity event?)
  2. Invest in image campaigns which increase prestige and reflect well on customers (pub chains are usually poor here)
  3. Embed customers in networks which consult on products and in special events (darts, music, quiz nights)
  4. Encourage front-line employees to communicate positives and foster company-customer identification. (After all a good barman is worth 1000 pints!).

Caveat:  you may find some texts call this second sort of emotional satisfaction something different.  Don’t worry:  it’s the right sort!


3 thoughts on “If You Can’t Get No Satisfaction… Get Emotion!

  1. Sallie Bale

    Great analogy as ever Bill. We’re not entirely rational beings, so aren’t likely to fit into a rational definition of satisfaction. Always good to go back and evaluate exactly what it is we’re trying to measure when we say “satisfaction”.

  2. Joanna Dudderidge

    I have just read a couple of books on the subject of perspective when it comes to such judgement as satisfaction and value. Both Dr R. Cialdini and Richard Thaler explain how our value rating is relative. Thus, the key is discovering and influencing that to which your business or business product is being compared.


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