In the world of customer engagement, we usually talk about customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.  And I believe there is a higher level of engagement still- customer apostle.  So, what’s the difference and who really cares?

After I define the three terms, and show you an example of each, you will understand the difference and you will really care.

Definitions

Customer Satisfaction – According to Wikipedia, “Customer satisfaction, a term frequently used in marketing, is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation.”  This is usually determined by asking a question on a survey like “How did your experience with XXX compare with your expectations:

  • Did not meet expectations
  • Below expectations
  • Met expectations
  • Above expectations
  • Exceeded expectations.

With this type of question, the 3’s, 4’s and 5’s are considered satisfied.  However, if your customers think you are a 3 or 4, they will only stick around as your customer until they get a better offer (and that will not have to be even much better).  They will switch for very little gain if they have the opportunity.

As an aside, to read about where expectations come from click here>>>>>>

Customer Loyalty – There are many more variations of a definition of loyalty than there are of satisfaction.  One key variable is your business area.  For example, B2C businesses frequently define a loyalty customer as someone who’s purchased from you more than three times, while others count Facebook “likes,” or Twitter followers. However, for both B2C and B2B there is one “universal” measurement and that is the Net Promoter Score (NPS)®.

The way it works is that you ask a question like “On a scale of zero to 10, where zero is definitely unlikely to recommend and 10 is definitely likely to recommend, how likely are you to recommend XXX to friends and colleagues?”  The scoring is as follows:

0 thru 6 detractors

7 and 8 passives

9 and 10 promoters

NPS = % promoters – % detractors

For many B2C businesses, their NPS is available on analyst’s web sites.

Customer Apostle – The term Apostle came out of the 2003 book “Value Profit Chain: Treat Employees like Customers and Customers like Employees” by Sasser and Jones.  The apostle is the most loyal of your customers and will proactively argue and or defend the company’s products and services.  And they will act as your unpaid, and unknown to you, salesperson.  The best way to identify these people is to ask new prospects and customers “how did you first hear about us” or “what made you contact us.”  If you find an apostle, treat her extremely well.  See this post for ideas on best practices.

The relationship between satisfaction, loyalty, and customer apostle:

Now, lets make believe we are on the floor of your annual convention or trade show.  You overhear a total stranger (lets call her “prospect”) talking with a person you recognize (lets call her “customer”).  Which of these three snippets of conversation would make you go to a secluded location and cry and which would drive you to the same location so you can attempt a cartwheel?

Conversation #1:

Prospect: So Sue, I am looking to buy an expensive widget for my business. Do you have any experience with any of the suppliers?

Customer: I do Beth.  I have one from XYZ.  Overall, I’m pretty satisfied.  It works OK and although they are slow to respond to questions, and I usually have to escalate the call, eventually I get answers and get what I paid for.

Conversation #2:

Prospect: So Sue, I am looking to buy an expensive widget for my business.  Do you have any experience with any of the suppliers?

Customer: I do Beth.  I have one from XYZ.

Prospect: Oh good, how satisfied are you?

Customer:  I am very satisfied and, in fact, I recommend them as a good supplier.

Conversation #3:

Prospect: So Sue, I am looking to buy an expensive widget for my business.  Do you have any experience with any of the suppliers?

Customer: I do Beth.  I have one from XYZ.  And let me tell you about them.  First, Mike, my account manager, did not try to sell me anything.  He asked lots of questions and then made a recommendation for their mid-range product.  When I was unsure he sent me case studies about all their products and highlighted why he recommended the product we eventually purchased.  It was delivered the day I wanted it, the installation was quick, neat, and thorough.  In fact, the installer spent a few hours with my designated operators to make sure they could use it immediately and did not have any questions.

Later on we had a minor problem and they took care of it within 4 hours, did not charge a crazy amount for the parts, labor and travel, and warranted the job for a full year.  They also send me a quarterly e-zine with lots of useful information and tips and they host an annual local users group where we network and provide our inputs for their product roadmap.

I wish I had not wasted any time talking to ABC and BestCo. – Ugh!

All three of these conversations are going on every day all over the world.

Which do you want your prospects to hear?