A lot has been written about how to get more word of mouth (WoM) recommendations, and how important they are to the life of a business.
I have been reading some interesting research lately and piecing it into actionable strategies that get business results, and a concept has been rolling around in my mind for quite sometime.
I’d like to share what I think is a valuable perspective on how a business can increase customer satisfaction, and consequently get more word of mouth recommendations.
Seasoned business owners understand the value of word of mouth recommendations.
…and 92 percent of consumers trust word of mouth recommendations above all other forms of advertising (Nielsen 2012).
Can a business amplify its word of mouth?
…But it has little to do with creating a twitter presence, building a Facebook page, releasing a You Tube video, or pinning photos of tasty food.
Increasing word of mouth recommendations starts at the core of the business.
In order to learn how to increase word of mouth, we must first understand what generates a WoM recommendation.
When Do Word of Mouth Recommendations Occur?
To put it simply, word of mouth recommendations occur when customers are HIGHLY satisfied.
Not just “satisfied” but “HIGHLY satisfied.” This is an important distinction.
This means if we want to increase WoM, our focus should be on creating hordes of HIGHLY satisfied customers.
A quick Google search uncovers a number of articles offering advice on how to improve customer satisfaction using post purchase services, surveys, and more.
I’m not going to restate any of those sentiments.
What I am going to do is briefly discuss what determines the satisfaction of a customer, along with one proven strategy for increasing customer satisfaction.
The proper application of what I’m about to present will result in more HIGHLY satisfied customers, and consequently, more WoM recommendations.
If we look at the research, we’ll see that a customer’s satisfaction is largely determined by how much value they expected to receive from a product or service, and how much value they actually received from that product or service.
This is the foundation of a concept originated by Dr. Richard L. Oliver in 1977 called the expectation confirmation theory.
The expectation confirmation theory explains that the difference between the value a customer expects to receive, and the value they actually receive will determine their level of satisfaction.
To illustrate the point, I’ll use arbitrary numbers to represent ‘value’ and ‘satisfaction.’
If a customer purchases Product A expecting to receive 20 points of value, and she actually receives 20 points of value, her satisfaction level will be 0. The following image shows this mathematically.
A satisfaction level of 0 means the customer’s expectations were met, and they are satisfied to the extent they expected. In other words the customer got what she expected.
If instead a customer purchased Product B expecting to receive 10 points of value, and actually received 20 points of value, her satisfaction level would be 10.
This means even though the customer received the exact same amount of value, their satisfaction level is much higher simply because their expectations were lower.
Have you ever walked out of an over hyped movie, disappointed by what you just saw?
Your satisfaction with the movie was heavily determined by the expectations you had for the film. That is an example of the expectation confirmation theory in action.
Putting The Theory Into Practice
Using this model, managers have two “levers they can pull” to increase customer satisfaction, which we previously determined is imperative to increasing WoM recommendations.
Management Levers For Increasing Customer Satisfaction
- Increase actual value received
- Decrease expected value
Both adjustments will increase customer satisfaction.
This means by simply managing expectations, a company can increase customer satisfaction, and consequently, increase word of mouth recommendations.
A Real Life Example of This Concept in Action:
Zappos is always a great example when it comes to customer satisfaction.
The large online retailer offers free shipping, and it promises delivery in 4-5 business days. There are multiple stories of highly satisfied customers sharing all over social media after they received their order in 1-3 days.
Zappos managed expectations by under-promising delivery time, and over-delivered in a number of cases. The result is hordes of customers gushing with Zappos love…and loads of influential WoM recommendations.
Are there any other noteworthy examples of companies exceeding expectations in a way that gets people talking?