View from the board: customer satisfaction

The cook was the 18-year-old daughter of the Japanese family who owned the
restaurant. All of a sudden she said to me, ‘I am sorry to interrupt your
conversation but your guest tonight has false teeth in the back of his mouth and
he has a slight pain. Give me five minutes. I will go back to the kitchen and
change the carrots to something soft like aubergine or zucchini, so that he can
chew without any problem and can enjoy our tempura.’

To cut a long story short, she was right. And thanks to her, my friend
enjoyed the tempura that evening to his heart’s content.

So what is the significance of this story to your business? The key to
customer satisfaction is to offer just a little more than a customer is
expecting. Even if you offer 1% more, he will be a happy customer. If you offer
even 1% less, he will be an unhappy customer.

How do you find out what your customers are expecting?

Ask, ask and ask. BA changed from being Bloody Awful airline to being the
Best Airline. How? They asked more than 50,000 passengers about their likes and
dislikes, and what their expectations were.

Remember that it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to keep an
existing one. About 35% of your customers are not happy with you now and are
ready to leave you for a competitor, but only 4% will voice their opinion.

According to the Nordstrom department store chain in the US, about 56% to 70%
of customers will come back if their claims are solved. If the claims are
immediately solved, about 96% of customers will come back.

Unhappy customers will tell their stories to about nine or 10 people. About
13% of those tell the story to about 20 more people. When the claim is settled,
they usually tell only five or six people.

The secret of customer satisfaction is to constantly ask yourself: ‘What
would I expect if I were the customer?’ You will always find the answer.

And smile — you have got nothing to lose but to make someone happy.

Akio Miyabayashi was CEO of Minolta Europe for 20 years and is an adviser
with Boardroom Insight. Visit

Related reading