Customer Satisfaction Is Not a Good Indicator of Customer Behavior

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

People are very bad at telling you what they do or why they do it. 

Every year, the Irish airline Ryanair is voted among the most disliked brands in the world. And yet, every year Ryanair sees a rise in passenger traffic and profits. It has gone from a tiny regional airline flying 200,000 passengers a year to one of the biggest airlines in the world by passenger volume (87 million a year) and one of the most profitable. So, clearly, as far as Ryanair is concerned, satisfaction is not an indicator of use.

“Various research, including the work that provides the conceptual basis for the entire Net Promoter Score methodology, has found a weak link at best between a self-reported satisfied customer and repeat purchases from that customer,” Micah Solomon wrote for Forbes in October 2014. “And most of this research was done before it became as easy to switch suppliers as it is today in our globalized, de-frictionalized, broadbanded economy.”

Forty-one percent of customers who submit insurance claims are likely to switch brands within the following year, regardless of satisfaction, according to an Accenture study published in October 2014.

In the next two weeks I’ll be flying with Ryanair. I don’t see them as much better or worse than any other airline I’ve flown with. They are definitely cheaper, that’s for sure, and that’s why so many fly with them. Nobody likes to be seen as cheap. People like to pretend they make decisions based on factors that make them look good. They respond to branding surveys based on the "idealized me." But deep down, we’re all cheap. How else can you explain Ryanair’s phenomenal success?

Learning Opportunities

Over the years, I have realized that every airline I’ve flown with, given the chance, will exploit me. Behind the slick marketing is a pricing system that, if it figures out you really need the ticket, will charge you the maximum possible. I’d like to be loyal but I’m not going to be loyal to brands like these.

“Airline mileage programs are designed to be psychologically attractive, even addictive, to customers,” Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote for Forbes in October 2014. “But as their benefits have decreased, so too has passenger loyalty.” People have become less loyal today because they have finally figured out that as far as brands are concerned, loyalty is a one-way street. For many brands, the more loyal you are, the more they overcharge you.

In a study by KiteWheel, 73 percent of consumers said that the purpose of loyalty programs should be for brands to show appreciation for their loyal customers. Amazingly, 66 percent of marketers surveyed felt that loyalty programs are a way for consumers to show their loyalty to the brand. Surreal marketers. Truly surreal.

Today’s customer is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Words like loyalty and satisfaction are being emptied of meaning due to massive misuse. It has never been more important to watch what people do, rather than ask them what they do.

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.