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The Customer Satisfaction Behavior Curve

Briefly Explained

People often search for ways to describe and quantify their experience as a customer, whether they describe their experience as a good one or a bad one.  Human beings tend to talk about the things that happen in their lives on either end of the spectrum of satisfaction, not so much for their experiences 'in the middle'.  Business owners should make it their #1 priority to understand customer satisfaction dynamics at a deeper level - especially when it will have a direct effect on 'Customer Return & Recommend Rate'. 


After many years of designing and administering Customer Satisfaction Studies with literally million of respondents,  we found from our research that there were strong correlations between how customers rated their level of satisfaction and how they behaved towards the supplier in the future.   While most of this might seem quite obvious analysis, the potential benefits for the Business Owner who can effectively raise satisfaction levels higher can be quite significant. 


In the chart below we represent Overall Satisfaction on a scale from one (lowest) to ten (highest).  This represents the overall customer satisfaction experience measurement based upon the Ten Values Of Excellence 1. (see footnote) and correlation with Customer Return & Recommend Rate.

At first glance the Customer Satisfaction Behavior Curve has three distinct zones : Dissatisfaction (from 1 to 4.2) Indifference (from 4.3 to 7.8)  and Satisfaction (from 7.9 to 10).   

When customers rate a particular supplier as 4.2 or lower there is actually a predictable negative effect, ranging from not utilizing the supplier again to downright hostility to class action lawsuits, and at their lowest rating a supplier's brand actually becomes 'known as the worst'.  So not only is this supplier losing the customers they had a chance to satisfy, but they are losing others who they will never have a chance with.  As a supplier of any prodcut or service, from restaurants to copy machine manufacturers - if customers are rating you this low your #1 Job should be to damage recovery to at least try to move the customer into the zone of customer indifference.  

Customer Indifference means that customers exhibit no loyalty or preference behavior.  They might shop for a sale or stop at a high priced gas station that has a convenient location, but these are by no means faithful customers.  When your cusotmers rate your business in the zone of 'Indifference' it is the most expense way to run a business.  You'll have to pay to create new customers again and again, since every customer will not necessarily return.  There are many suppliers that fall into the zone of indifference.  This zone favors monopoly suppliers or those who have 'the only business in town' for what they do.  Some suppliers with low satisfaction scores who get motivated to make a few positive changes are surprised when they don't see a porportional increase in business.  While going from 5.5 to 7.0 is certainly an improvement, Customer Satisfaction Behavior is not a linear phenomenon.  

Supplier need to push overall satisfaction scores to 7.9 or higher to see the positive Customer Return and Recommend effect.  The Zone of Customer Satisfaction starts at 7.9 where one in five customers will either return to buy again or recommend the supplier to others.  At scores of 8.2 more than half of customers will return and when scores get to 9.0, nearly every customer will be returning & recommending - so in effect the positive effect becomes more than 100% and it goes up from there.  Businesses who receive an overall satisfaction score of 9.24 are universally 'known as the best', considered 'world class' or 'excellent' by customers.  There is in fact, an exponentially positive return and recommend rate with incredible benefits for any business who scores this high.


Imagine the sales and marketing value of a positive reputation with customers that is this high.  Our training programs present the path to get there. 


Suppliers who score this high and higher are rare, simply because it is a lot of work in each of the ten categories of excellence to create this effect, but it is what every business should be striving for.  Firmly establishing your enterprise in the Zone Of Customer Satisfaction is a demanding and methodical process, but one that is very much worth the effort.

1. Becoming Excellent - Applying The Ten Values Of Excellence To Your Organization, Bart Allen Berry, Aquarius Publishing 2017.


Our in depth research into the dynamics of Customer Satisfaction is well validated and forms the basis for all of our Customer Satisfqction Survey Work.  In our thirty year history we have implemented Satisfaction Studies with every modality including in person interviews, focus groups, mail in surveys and optical mark reader initiatives.  Nowadays virtually every study we do is web and email based which makes for much faster processing and just in time data reporting.  When you are serious about measuring Customer Satisfaction give us a call and we'll share a depth of perspective on this subject you won't see anywhere else.  

Yes we can help put your customer measurement into place in a way that ties in directly with organizational performance. 

Learn more about how to transform your organization and increase customer return and recommend rates for the success of your business.

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