What Customers Really Want: Bridging the Gap Between What Your Company Offers and What Your Clients Crave


Scott McKain's experience as vice chairman of a rapidly growing $100 million organization, and his client relationships with the world's leading organizations, have convinced him that there is a stunning difference between what customers want and what most organizations offer. This widening gulf creates dissatisfaction, distrust, and-worst of all for any business-disloyalty.

What customers really want today is a superior client experience. Sure, they want good service, a good ...

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Scott McKain's experience as vice chairman of a rapidly growing $100 million organization, and his client relationships with the world's leading organizations, have convinced him that there is a stunning difference between what customers want and what most organizations offer. This widening gulf creates dissatisfaction, distrust, and-worst of all for any business-disloyalty.

What customers really want today is a superior client experience. Sure, they want good service, a good product, and a good price. But what creates client loyalty is the connection created by organizations through the use of these elements along with personalization, differentiation, and emotion.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780785288367
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/17/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott McKain is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute. His latest book, Collapse of Distinction, was named one of the “Ten Best Business Books” of the year by the Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee, and numerous other major publications. He has appeared on FOX News Network as an Analyst and Commentator.

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Read an Excerpt


How to Bridge the Gap Between What Your Organization Offers and What Your Clients Crave
By Scott McKain

Nelson Business

Copyright © 2007 Scott McKain
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-8836-7

Chapter One


What Customers REALLY Want: Compelling Experience What Business Supplies: Customer Service

As I sat in the wrecked automobile, dust from the air bag covered my suit. My ears still ringing from the shotgunlike sound of the bag's deployment, I opened the car door and walked to the other driver to make certain he was OK.

I returned to my car and, finding my cell phone on the floorboard, I called the police. Then, still a little woozy from the accident, I realized there was another call I needed to make. I was driving a rental car from Hertz.

I pulled the car rental agreement from the glove compartment and found the number I knew was listed but had never had to use. The words on the folder read, "If you're in an accident, call the police and then call this number." I had called the police-now it was time to call Hertz and tell them I had just totaled one of their cars.

"This is Hertz," the kind voice on the other end of the line answered. "How may I help you?"

"Well, I hate to tell you this-I have never had to make one of these calls before-but I've just wrecked my rental car."

"Yes, sir-I understand. Are you all right?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

"May I have your name, please?"

"Certainly ... it's Scott McKain." My head was throbbing from the combination of the accident, the heat of the afternoon, and the stress of the traffic jam that had been caused (during rush hour in New York City!) by the accident. Suffice it to say that the middle-finger salutes our accident was eliciting were not out of concern for my health.

"Mr. McKain ... are you absolutely sure that you are OK?" the Hertz representative inquired.

"Well-I am a little wobbly right now, but I'm not injured."

"I want to make certain," she said. "Hertz can always get another car-but we can never get another Mr. McKain."

That's when Hertz transcended from customer service to compelling experience-that's when they provided what I REALLY wanted.

Customer Satisfaction?

Let your imagination run free for a couple of minutes. Let's envision that you've met the person you believe to be your soul mate. She is absolutely perfect for you-the one with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. You send flowers and bring gifts. You wine and dine her with intensity and passion. On one knee and holding her hand, you nervously ask her how she feels about you and your new relationship. She responds, "Well ... I guess I'm satisfied."

Are you thrilled with that answer? Of course not! You want her to be wildly, madly, crazy in love!

So, if "satisfaction" is such a disappointment to us in this situation, why do we find it so acceptable from our customers? Why don't we want them to be just as wildly, madly, crazily enthralled with our products and services? Why is mere "satisfaction" the supposed standard when it comes to our goals regarding clients?

In a June 2004 article titled "Beyond Mere Satisfaction, the Role of Customer Delight" by Timothy Keiningham, Douglas Pruden, and Terry Vavra, this amazing statistic is cited: "Over a five-year period of intense customer satisfaction activity (over $800,000,000 spent annually on customer satisfaction in the United States), the satisfaction ratings of American consumers have failed to increase!"

One of their viewpoints states the obvious, but powerful, conclusion: "Surveying the results of this effort ... one would have to conclude that far too few satisfaction programs have actually improved customers' satisfaction!"

Here are the statistics regarding what happens to dissatisfied customers and why they take their business elsewhere:

Moved away from the area 3% Other friendships with providers 5% Chose the competition 9% Dissatisfaction with your product 14% Put off by an employee's attitude 68%

Other studies indicate that only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers will report their problem. Ninety-one percent of dissatisfied customers will never purchase anything from your company again (which, of course, speaks not only to the passion of dissatisfied customers, but also to the low quality of customer recovery efforts in place at most companies).

Yet, is it possible that we have employed some pretty shaky logic in response to this research? What I mean is, after learning that customer dissatisfaction is so detrimental, we then make the seemingly logical assumption that what customers want must be "satisfaction." Makes sense, right? The opposite of "dissatisfaction" must be "satisfaction"-what else could it be?

Let's return to our example of romance discussed earlier-if the relationship proceeds in the manner you desire, the object of your affection will fall in love with you. However, what if the opposite occurs?

We tend to assume that the opposite of "love" is "hate." But if the woman you desire doesn't fall in love with you-does that mean she hates you? Of course not.

Psychologists will tell us that the opposite of love is not hate, because the emotion of hate still involves passion. The opposite of love is indifference.

The same is true with customer dissatisfaction. As strange as it sounds, the opposite of dissatisfaction is not satisfaction-because the research clearly shows that dissatisfied customers are staggeringly more passionate in their response than those that are merely "satisfied."

If satisfied customers responded in the inverse of dissatisfied customers, they would display a significant degree of loyalty, and that's just not the case.

My friend Jeffrey Gitomer authored a book with the classic title Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless-Customer Loyalty Is Priceless. I think that really says it all! Even those who claim to disagree with him have difficulty when they attempt to invalidate his point. In an article published November 2001 in The Wise Marketer, Michael Lowenstein calls Gitomer's phrase "both an exaggeration and a superficial reflection." Yet in practically the next breath he says, "Though there may be some tenuous relationship between satisfaction and loyalty (particularly in situations where there is little direct customer-supplier interaction), satisfaction metrics are generally very poor predictors of customer loyalty." Huh? Doesn't that statement help prove Gitomer's assertion?

Let me tell you how it is in our companies at Obsidian-we want loyal customers. If you're "satisfied" and still go somewhere else, that doesn't help us. So, to our companies, customer loyalty is priceless.

I believe part of the problem here is that we have three terms meaning different things, yet they are being used somewhat interchangeably:

1. customer satisfaction 2. customer service 3. customer experience

Until we understand that these three are very dissimilar, from the customer's point of view, it will be extraordinarily difficult to develop and execute the strategies necessary to create customer loyalty.

Experience or Service: What's the Difference?

As I give speeches across the country, I find that one of the most difficult concepts for professionals to grasp is the fundamental difference between customer service and the customer experience. To explain this, let's put the term satisfaction on the shelf for a bit and think of the three levels of customer interaction.

The Three Levels of Customer Interaction

Level One: Customer Processing

You have been there a million times-you're fourth in line at the drive-thru at a local fast-food restaurant. The line of cars moves slowly as they snake their way toward the speaker to place an order.

As you finally make it to the point where you can order your lunch, you are greeted with this sound from the speaker: "GOODAFTERNOONWELCOMETOBURGERKINGMAYITAKEYOURORDERPLEASE?"

The overmodulation from the speaker causes you to briefly recall a rock concert you attended in the early 1970s. (Why does it seem that technology has advanced everything but the speakers at drive-thrus?) You place your order for lunch and then hear, "THANKYOUNEXTWINDOW."

A disinterested, gum-chewing cashier takes your money and points you to the next window, where an equally disinterested clerk pitches a bag of food at you. Have a nice lunch.

Sound familiar? Here's another:

You're waiting in a long line at the airport. When you finally arrive at the front, a ticket agent shouts, "NEXT!" You walk up and are greeted with these words: "Where's your destination today?" When you answer his question, he then responds with the ever-personal, "Name?"

He types your name and some mysterious code into the computer. He scrunches his mouth and waits, never looking at you. Evidently the computer screen has told the agent that you do, in fact, have a reservation-even an e-ticket for the flight-so the agent responds to his new information by saying, "Checking bags today?"

You check your bag, get your boarding pass, show your ID-and the agent never uses your name.

Now it's time for the thrilling portion of the trip we call "airport security." You stand in a long line to get to the point of screening-a line so enormous that it is putting you in danger of missing your plane. When you reach the front of the queue, you're told to strip off your belt, shoes, and dignity. You remove your laptop from your briefcase, spilling several items that you had carefully packed along the way. Thankfully, you didn't "beep"-and you can now make the mad dash so you won't miss your flight.

You arrive at the gate and the boarding process is like herding cattle at a slaughterhouse. The gate agent allows those with "special needs," children, elite-level fliers, passengers in first class, and those wearing yellow with the middle name "Sue" to board ahead of you. Then the people in the rear, then the middle ... and by the time your group is announced, you are thanking God that you have no carry-on to attempt to place in the already-full overhead compartments.

You finally take your middle seat, stuffed between a retired sumo wrestler and the most recent parolee from your state's penitentiary-one row ahead of a mother with a crying baby and a four-year-old who won't stop kicking your seat. The frazzled flight attendants, who must serve a full plane in forty minutes, shovel you a lukewarm cup of coffee. After sixty minutes trapped in hell, you finally land at your destination.

In both cases, the business would-perhaps rightly-tell you it did its job. You were delivered a meal; you were delivered to your destination. You got your food, and you didn't have to wait an inordinate amount of time. You got where you wanted to go, had a cup of coffee, and arrived on time.

The problem is that there is a bad taste in your mouth ... and it's not the fast food or airline coffee.

You weren't served as a customer-you were processed. That's Level One. Many organizations confuse "processing" with "service," creating a significant portion of the problems that customers have with the level of treatment they receive. In other words, because customers and companies define the very nature of customer service differently, many organizations miss the mark and fail to understand why.

Please don't misunderstand me-it is vital to improve the way your organization processes your customers' transactions. For example, take the case of the Speedpass payment system created by Mobil, now part of ExxonMobil. According to an article by Keith H. Hammonds in the November 2001 edition of Fast Company magazine:

By waving a small device at a reader on the gas pump and having their credit cards automatically billed, customers could cut 30 seconds or so from a three-and-a-half-minute transaction. And that half-minute turned out to be compelling: Speedpass holders (5 million drivers have become active users in the past four years) average one visit more per month to Mobil stations than other customers do, and so spend 2% to 3% more per month. The company won't release conclusive data on Speedpass usage, but higher revenue so far has justified station owners' typical $15,000 investment in scanner technology.

By the way, note the word that Fast Company used to describe why Speedpass was important-it turned out to be "compelling."

Improving the speed and efficiency of a transaction is an improvement customers appreciate. However, this is also relatively simple for your competitors to duplicate. If you think just improving processing will give you a sustainable advantage in the marketplace, you are dead wrong. For example, another service station near my house is testing its own similar system.

Interestingly, ExxonMobil understood that point from the beginning. The Fast Company article continues, "Here's where Mobil has made a crucial leap in its thinking: The value of Speedpass isn't in the exclusivity of the technology. It's in the relationships with those 5 million users. That's a remarkably progressive analysis for the $230 billion leader of an industry known best for conservative, plodding strategy. Forfeit exclusivity, it says, in hopes of building something much more powerful." As the article clearly states, Speedpass is a success because the relationship developed transcends the technology deployed.

There are many areas in which the use of technology to speed processing has helped my life and yours. When I'm renting from Hertz, I find its Hertz Gold service to be terrific. The bus drops you off, and you find your name in lights over your assigned car. Quickly, you get in and drive away. It's speedy, it's efficient, and it is a differentiating factor.

Are you starting to get used to the self-service kiosks at airports? I am-albeit somewhat reluctantly. Yet, the kiosk is certainly an advantage when you're running late and need to get to your flight. And, given the quality of the conversation with the ticket agent mentioned previously, the kiosk is certainly as user-friendly.

It really doesn't seem all that long ago you would apply for a loan, and then nervously wait for several days to discover whether or not you had been approved. Processing loans has certainly changed, thanks to technology.

Household, a Fortune 200 company with a 120-year history, lends money for auto purchases through its Household Finance Corporation division. The speed with which a dealer can respond regarding financing can be the difference between gaining or losing the sale-and Household wanted to be responsive to the five thousand-plus auto dealers with whom it has relationships. But it also needed to integrate any new technology with the data it had developed as far back as the 1980s. As IBM documents on one of its Web sites, its E-bridge solution provided Household with the ability to grow loan volume-without proportionally increasing staff and administrative costs-and "move the loan application review process from days to minutes."

It's important to note, however, that Household also suggests the main reason this is so important is that the technology gave the company the opportunity to "grow relationships."

Note a similarity here?

Speed in processing is of value to the organization only when the customer doesn't feel processed!


Excerpted from WHAT CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT by Scott McKain Copyright © 2007 by Scott McKain. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: The Fundamental Disconnect....................vii
1. The First Disconnection....................1
What Customers REALLY Want: Compelling Experience What Business Supplies: Customer Service 2. The Second Disconnection....................33
What Customers REALLY Want: Personal Focus What Business Supplies: Product Focus 3. The Third Disconnection....................59
What Customers REALLY Want: Reciprocal Loyalty What Business Supplies: Endless Prospecting 4. The Fourth Disconnection....................97
What Customers REALLY Want: Differentiation What Business Offers: Sameness 5. The Fifth Disconnection....................133
What Customers REALLY Want: Coordination What Business Offers: Confusion 6. The Sixth Disconnection....................159
What Customers REALLY Want: Innovation What Business Offers: Status Quo 7. Conclusion: The Culture of the Customer....................183
About the Author....................193
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    What Customers Really Want, A book everyone should read

    If you planning on going into a business that involves interaction with people no matter what it is, be it McDonald's cashier or a corporate sales executive this is a great book to help you do your job. Scott Mckain knows customers and what they want. He brings you step by step through the customer relationship. He compares the standard definitions of service to what would be great customer service. His examples of the drive through window or customer confusion are easy to understand and relate. This book is a must for business people everywhere. It will help you develop that customer relationship that your business needs.
    Reading this book was helpful to me because it gives some great life lessons. Anyone in business needs to understand customers. We all have customers in life. This book will help you understand the relationships as they exist today, and how to take them to the next level.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2009

    What Customers Really Want, a definite read!

    In Scott McKain's book "What Customers Really Want" he takes the reader on a ride of real life experiences and facts he has learned while becoming the astound business man that he is. His everyday stories help exemplify techniques and strategies that link humanization, kindness, focus, loyalty, and a sense of compassion to customers and all people in general. Scott's elaborate knowledge of what really intrigues and keeps customers happy makes this book engaging and personal, hitting home with situations we have all been in before.
    The tips and advice you will find inside "What Customers Really Want" are simple, yet effective. Scott preaches on how the effortless use of a customer or clients name in conversation brings about a more friendly and personal relationship. Another key point that is brought up is the idea of servicing customers instead of processing them.
    This book is well written and is very relatable to all readers, its extensive information aids those looking to improve their people skills and become better business men. As it says in the title of the book, Mr. McKain truly does bridge the gap between organization offers and what customers and clients really crave. I recommend this book, the reader will definitely not be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    Very elementary

    Most of the material is trite and too self-promotional. There's little to distinguish it from numerous other books peddling similar advice. The author, who is Vice Chairman and a board member at Obsidian Enterprises, touts this obscure holding company as some sort of gold standard. Bad example. Googling Obsidian found that federal authorities recently raided company offices, seized records and shutdown operations. According to news reports, Obsidian and its CEO/Board Chairman, Timothy Durham, are being investigated for allegations involving fraud and insider loans at Fair Finance, an Obsidian-owned Ohio bank. The court-appointed recevier is trying to recover over $168 million said to be missing from Fair Finance accounts. Obsidian is no longer publicly traded. Somehow it's hard to imagine that's what customers really wanted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2007

    Definitely Worth Reading

    I was surprised. At first, I though this would be a collection of war stories by some aging sales rep. After finishing it, though, I recommend it to anyone trying to get a handle on the study of customer experience. Good section on avoiding the pitfalls of commoditization (like competing on price). Some ideas are re-hashed and not the author's, but he gives proper credit, and so some content might not be new to those well-versed in the subject. Still, this book is staying on my shelf, and I cannot understand why it did not get more press and sell more copies. Unlike many business authors, this one has actually owned and run successful firms.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2011

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    Posted December 21, 2009

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