For Your Customers, “Good Enough” is Often Best

It’s not hard to find people who talk about the criticality and importance of customer experience. And they’re not wrong! But there are occasions when the best customer experience is actually none at all.

If you’re sitting in a company meeting right now, get out your bingo card and let us know if you hear any of these phrases:

“We want to maximize our customers’ experience with our brand.”

“We’re more than just a _____ provider – we’re a partner.”

“Our goal is to be the Apple of the ______ industry.”

“We are obsessed with customer satisfaction.”

On the surface, all these statements sound great, right? Who doesn’t love big, bold proclamations of customer devotion?

It makes us feel good about our company and our work. It makes the Street feel like we’re on top of things. It makes customers feel valued, which leads to better retention, more revenue. Right?

Not necessarily.

Your engagement may be creating a negative experience

Your customers – if they are thinking about you right now at all – might prefer that you leave them alone.

Think about it like the consumer that you are:

  • Are you inspired to respond with praise when your cable company sends customer feedback surveys?
  • Does the social media engagement from your insurance provider make you sentimental about how they handled your last claim?

The answer is probably no. And depending on the business, chances are that the favored customer experience is not interacting at all.

So how can you tell if you’re crossing the line? Start by asking yourself some questions:

Is engagement critical to retention? If your product or service has high switching costs, then not only is more engagement unnecessary, it’s probably also unwelcome. You don’t want to have a conversation with your bank, but if you must, it had better be quick.

Do customers think of you as a positive in their life?  Or are customers only aware of you when something is wrong? If your brand is used when things are rough, every additional interaction with your brand can remind your customer of a negative experience. Even if you provided help through it (e.g., insurance), you will forever be associated with it. Fix the problem quickly and disengage so you don’t become the problem.

Can we even make this customer happy? If you can’t – either right now or ever – then continued contact without resolution is like pouring salt in the wound. Sometimes it’s okay to have an unhappy customer.

You may be leaving money on the table

“Add value” has been a mantra for years for most companies.

But at some point, all-inclusive can become exclusive. Add too much, and you have to cover your costs with higher prices, which fewer customers can afford to pay.

The good news is, they may not want the services anyway. And those that do are probably willing to shell out the extra money.

Many companies are increasing prices and removing perks from their products during the COVID era.  It makes perfect sense. The pandemic gives them air cover to make changes, and the downsides of testing such approaches are much lower.

A notable recent convert to this thinking is Disney Parks. While the pandemic hit travel revenue and costs in a big way, Disney cut benefits, and their profits are fabulous.

For example, Extra Magic Hours were removed for all guests as a way to manage crowds. Now they’ve returned… but only if you’re staying at a (higher revenue) Disney luxury hotel. And the Fast Pass – a line-jumping perk once available for all – is now a premium add-on called Genie+.

Though there has been backlash among the Disney faithful, many recognize the big benefits and are gladly paying for them. [Editor’s note: the author is doing exactly that right now.]

The Balancing Act: Aiming for “Good Enough”

Make no mistake – understanding customer preferences and their journey with your product is still critical to business success. An oft-overlooked nuance is that customer satisfaction is not one-dimensional. Rather, it is a tension between expectations and delivery against them.

Give some slack on one side, and you’ve freed some room on the other.

The wireless service market provides a great example. While Verizon regularly tops network providers, customers rate other providers like Straight Talk more highly. Why? They have lower expectations, but these expectations are better met.

So how do you find this sweet spot?

1. Get to know your customer – deeply. Dive into their journey with your product or service. Walk a mile in their shoes to uncover latent needs and perspectives.

2. Remember: customer feedback is different from customer behavior. When customers are squawking on social media, it’s instinct to react instantly, to fix the problem at the root of every complaint. The best thing to do? Pause, and think about the true consequences of a particular bad experience.

Will they switch? Could it cause a groundswell of dissatisfaction? Or do they just need to vent?

It’s easy to complain or praise, but it’s sometimes easier to stick with status quo. Match your customer service efforts to the possible impact.

3. Understand what “good enough” means in your line of business. In your customer’s mind, a known “good enough” is better than a potential “worse.” Because customers are constantly doing this calculation in their heads, it’s in their best interest (and yours) to provide what is good enough for them, and remove the difficulty from the choice.

As a starting point, it can help to consider several dimensions of your customer’s experience:

This can help refine the adjustments required to get there.

4. Build and navigate your roadmap to reach “good enough.” The best situation for everyone is “good enough.” Once you have the insights, the path forward becomes clearer – but not necessarily easier. Adjustments come with risks, but those risks can be mitigated. And the rewards can be very rich indeed.

A Final Thought

To be abundantly clear, customer experience is incredibly important! Just remember that the ideal customer experience is sometimes none at all.

Erin Catalina contributed to this article.

Further Advisory helps companies across industries match the right customer experience strategies with the products and service offerings those companies provide. From customer personas to journeys to market analysis, we make strategy become a reality.

About the author


  • Sean Gilligan

    Sean has spent his career focused on customer interactions – across sales, marketing, and customer service. In various engagements he has developed customer strategy, designed process, organization, and technology solutions to enable those strategies.

From Strategy to Reality®

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