Customer Feedback: Moving From Exceeding Expectations To Good Enough

If you read most blog articles about Customer Feedback, you will find a lot of discussion about the importance of having a high NPS (Net Promoter Score) and exceeding expectations. Just try googling ‘exceeding expectations’ and you will find that you need to go through over 20 pages of content which will explain how to exceed expectations, the importance of exceeding expectations or, more threatening, how your business is dead if you don’t exceed expectations.

Questioning the need to exceed expectations

It’s almost become a marketing doctrine. You must exceed expectations. Actually, in practice, most of the time we only want the products and services we use to meet expectations. This applies to a whole stack of things:

  • The washing machine in my house is great, but it doesn’t exceed expectations
  • My local Neros sells decent coffee (so my wife says), but it’s no more than very good
  • The numerous food products we buy each week are of good quality, but only the odd one exceeds expectations occasionally – and it doesn’t matter
  • I travelled around Asia on business just before the coronavirus. I stayed at five different hotels – they were all fine, but none of them exceeded my expectations – and I would go back to all of them except, perhaps, one.

To exceed expectations or to be competent

So, you get my point, no doubt. It’s not often we want expectations exceeded. Good enough is, well, good enough. Yet, all I read is that it is essential to exceed expectations. If you ask my customers why they buy software from us, the reasons are probably software quality, uniqueness, dedicated staff, productivity, reasonable prices, better than a lot of other software companies. Whether we exceed expectation – well, I hope we do when it matters if there’s something crucial that needs to be solved, but mostly we are reliable, consistent and very competent – at least, I hope that’s our image.

How does coronavirus change things?

Coronavirus may change things. There are not many optimists out there who think people or business will be better off during or after coronavirus. Yes, there are some exceptions – the company that comes up with the first antidote will do very nicely, I suspect. But, mostly, people and businesses will have less to spend. This need for frugality is likely to spark a greater emphasis on ‘value for money’ and questioning the value of things that have a higher price ticket.

Challenges for software suppliers in market research

a. The premium products

The coronavirus crisis will mean a shuffling of the pack. Some of the premium products will suffer while others will gain market share. If a premium makes a difference, then it will do well, but it will need to show its value. I’ve already had one conversation with someone who currently uses a highly-priced online survey platform who told me that they could do well over 90% of their projects with a platform that costs just over 10% of the cost of the premium product. The small percentage of projects that need top of the range software could be sub-contracted or managed some other way reducing costs by a whopping 60% or more. Similarly, some of the highly-priced online dashboard platforms will be vulnerable to more modern, second-generation platforms that cost about one-third of the older platforms. This, we feel, bodes well for both our Snap and CYS Online Dashboard platform.

b.The budget products

At the other end of the spectrum are the budget products or those with a low entry cost. These suddenly more attractive as, in most cases, commitment to expenditure can fall in line with the volume of business that is won – something that may be hard to predict whenever we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Again, both Snap and CYS offer low entry costs with an easy upgrade path if business takes off.

Embracing ‘good enough’

Maybe, post-coronavirus, companies will be re-calibrating their customer experience feedback. Maybe, customers who think they need expectations exceeded will be clear about the fact that they want ‘good enough’. In most cases, I have found ‘good enough’ to be fine and only have a problem where things are not good enough. There are exceptions – there always will be. Wedding venues for example and top-notch restaurants charging the price of ten pub meals for a starter will need to exceed expectation because that’s the only reason people go there, but they are not the norm.

Back to software in market research

I am sometimes surprised when I see one of the numerous questionnaires that I receive. I can see they have designed in pricey software products, but actually are ill-designed and could look just as good in a free software package. Is it really worth that big price tag just because there is a feature that makes something possible yet never used? I think buyers of research software will look more closely at value for money and find good enough solutions.

In defence of ‘good enough’

Finally, there will be some people out there who will disagree with this blog article. I welcome their opinions, to be honest. I accept that ‘good enough’ has a slightly negative connotation, but don’t be confused by what ‘good enough’ really means. Maybe, it translates differently in different languages or cultures. As a slight diversion, I remember travelling in Thailand where a restaurant had a sign in the window which said ‘our food is very average’. Now, I am sure they meant it was a good standard, but in English ‘very average’ has a heavy negative notation which, in the UK at least, means sub-standard. So, maybe that’s the nub of the problem after all.

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