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We are all so used to receiving the customary satisfaction survey (0-10 scale for the NPS) and the “invitation” to share our experience with the rest of the planet. We all know why this happens but I wonder if we pay enough attention to why we are doing this.

The survey is more often for internal management purposes and the review helps promote the business we have just given money to, so we have become a part of their operations and marketing communications teams!

But it feels to me that we should approach data gathering with a desire to gain real insights into what we do from our customers’ perspective and avoid the trap of generating purely generic performance improvement feedback that dangerously takes us away from the differentiation we all seek.

My most recent experience of this was a few days at the Holiday Inn Express at Chester Racecourse, with 5 mates on a golfing tour. It worked, it was clean, the staff were nice, it had a good location, it was a cheap hotel, we slept, we woke up (which is always a bonus), and we went home.

In other words, it did what it is in business to do. No more no less.

And then the dreaded survey popped up in my inbox as if it was my destiny to fill in and post a review. Don’t get me wrong gathering customer feedback is vital to inform the brand about the real experience it has just delivered but it must also recognise the different “journeys” each of the guests were engaged in.

There was no real attempt to understand or track the reasons we were there.

We were a bunch who will fly both EasyJet and turn left on the plane, we shop at Waitrose and Aldi and we stay at Holiday Inn Expresses and Mandarin Orientals around the world. The point being that we have different occasion needs and therefore different customer experience expectations.

Other guests included two hen parties, various foreign tourists as well as some British visitors and even a few businessmen working. They will have had different expectations too.

So how does any experience provider ensure that all these various people get the experience to meet their needs?

For me the answer lies in what binds the experiential expectations of the guests. In this case the brand delivered a good transactional experience to people looking for price and functionality.

So the real opportunity for the brand here was to use what binds us all together i.e. delivering the basics of the customer experience brilliantly. The hotel did that pretty well but that is what I expect, it is their reason to be, so no prizes from any of us for delivering what we promise other than a place on our portfolio of choice next time round.

Were there any Magic Moments where the brand came shining through, not really but then we were not expecting them. Am I extremely satisfied, not really as it did what I expected it to do, so how do I rate that?

My point is that when we are asking questions about satisfaction in the customer experience we must all find ways to gain a little insight rather than just data about the mode of the customer responding, a deeper dig into the reason they are there just beyond on business, leisure, etc.

Then we will be able to understand not just how satisfied they are with what we do and what is the real value of going that little bit further for them but also how the brand can produce the magic that is differentiation.

Above all, surveys or no surveys, we must all deliver the basics of our offer brilliantly as this then give us the permission to build the brand driven Magic Moments. Please don’t fall into the trap of trying to do the Magic before the basics are working… if you do then prepare yourself to be rather upset by your surveys and reviews.

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