See the Expectation instead of the Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is an interesting aspect when dealing with business in general. The reason why this is interesting is that customer satisfaction is often used to compare companies with one another, and is by many considered a legitimate measurement of a products quality. However I will claim that customer satisfaction and product quality are two extremely separated things.

Why this concept has come to my mind, is cause to an assignment at the university looking at the airline industry. In a group of five, we have decided to look closer on the strategy of the Irish airliner Ryanair. Ryanair is a fascinating company to work with, mainly because Ryanair has experienced exponential growth in passengers since 1985 when it was founded with a route flying Waterford to London Gatwick.

Those of you who have tried flying Ryanair, myself included, has probably experienced a rather low standard of different services offered on-board and in the terminal. Ryanair is famous for charging for everything, and basically not include anything in the flight, accept getting from destination A to destination B. However even though the general actual quality and service of the flight tend to be low, the customer satisfaction tends to be rather good and in general above average among the short-haul airliners.

But how can this be true if the quality is as bad as I claim?

The reason is that quality and satisfaction is not related. On the other hand expectation and satisfaction is related. The common passenger of Ryanair expects to be charged a smaller fortune for a 150 ml cola on-board, and is therefore not surprised when asked to pay. Also does an average Ryanair passenger not expect plenty of leg space and is therefore not surprised when he or she is served a baby seat.

These expectations are factors that influence the customer satisfaction. So even though the quality of the flight is low, the expectation to the flight is similarly low, resulting in a relatively actable customer satisfaction.

Taking another airline currently in trouble is the Scandinavian Airline, SAS. The price for a SAS ticket is rather expensive, or at least perceived that way. Probably because of the expensive ticket people tend to have high expectations of the service offered by SAS. However SAS does not seem to be able to deliver the expected service level, and therefore is the customer satisfaction level also lower than other comparable airliners. Not because the quality of the flight is bad, but because the customers have higher expectations than SAS manage to cope with.

The example given is not different from any other situation. Studying economics we know that if the expectation to the stock market is negative, it will cause people to sell, creating a higher supply than demand, which in the end causes a decrease in price.

So remember to analyse the expectation before you hesitate to conclude on the satisfaction. Sometimes things are not as they seem.