Join the Enlightenment: Make the Focus Shift from Customer Satisfaction to Customer Success

Hardly a day goes by when I don't hear some CEO puzzling over customer satisfaction scores, wondering what kind of mysterious alchemy could possibly bring them out of the gutter?

As if we don't know.

The first problem is with that terrible phrase, "customer satisfaction." Everybody likes to be satisfied, right? Well everybody likes to be fed, too -- but when's the last time you picked a restaurant just because they would feed you? Every two-bit restaurant will feed you. Whoop de friggin doo.

Thing is, just about every business will "satisfy" you, too. They'll get your dry cleaning done, your package delivered, your hair cut. So if just about everybody can step over the low bar of customer "satisfaction," why do we keep talking about customer satisfaction as if it's a meaningful goal?

What you want and need are not satisfied customers, but successful ones. And the best way to get that, according to study after study, is to have engaged employees who love their work.

In 2005, Manpower surveyed over 200,000 customer service representatives in a wide variety of industries, then cross-matched with customer service scores. And guess what: Contact centers with happy employees also have happy customers, while those with unhappy employees also have dissatisfied customers.

Time to drop the other shoe. According to a Conference Board report released earlier this year, just 45 percent of Americans are happy in their work -- the lowest level in the 22-year history of the survey. When they first asked the question in 1987, 61 percent described themselves as happy in their work. It's slid continually from there.

When employers recognize that employee engagement is not just a feel-good, fuzzy-wuzzy luxury but the golden key to customer success and profitability, they never look back. Here's to ever-more employers joining the Enlightenment.