Many business leaders look at their sales and conclude, “This is great—our customers really love us! We’d better not change a thing!”

I hate to break the news, but such leaders are often living in a fool’s paradise. Why? Because it’s highly likely their customers are settling for the brand because it’s the one they hate the least. If a better brand came along, they’d ditch the first one in a heartbeat.

It’s all about “customer experience dysphoria” (CXD). The word “dysphoria” means “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.” When used in the context of customer experience, it means your customer has the nagging feeling of those few lovepoints being spoiled by hatepoints. They wish their customer experience could be better, but it isn’t, and they feel helpless to change it.

Why is customer experience producing dysphoria? It’s primarily because organizations don’t really know just how bad they really are. To put it more simply, they don’t realize how many customers are not dedicated to them at best, and hate them at worse.

Too many businesses believe they’re a lot better than they actually are.

A study was done by Pegasystems, a leader in software for customer engagement and operational excellence. They asked leaders and employees to rate the quality of service their organization provided, from “terrible” to “excellent.” Then they asked customers to rate the quality of a typical experience on the same scale.

The results?

40 percent of company leaders rated their company’s service as “excellent.”
23 percent of company employees rated their company’s service as “excellent.”
But only 10 percent of the company’s customers rated the company’s service as “excellent.”

The gaps here, with more than two times the number of employees and four times the number of business leaders as customers deeming the quality of service as excellent, highlighted the fact that businesses in general are overconfident about the service they provide. The gap gets worse the further away you get from actually interacting with a customer. The front-line workers were mildly overconfident, while the executives, who probably had zero customer contact, were wildly overconfident.

Many Customers Won’t Express Their Opinion

This points to another issue: the reluctance of many customers to express dissatisfaction directly to the company. Instead of speaking up, they shrug their shoulders and think, “Well, once again I got lousy service. What can you do?” But when asked by a third-party researcher, they’re suddenly willing to go on the record and say, “Yes, the service provided by XYZ Company was terrible. I’m never shopping there again.” Meanwhile, the executives at XYZ Company, while on their annual retreat to a resort in Jamaica, are blissfully unaware of how  much their own customers hate them. They act like Alfred E. Neuman and repeat the mantra, “What, me worry?”

I suppose you could suggest that it’s not surprising that executives and leaders and board members believe their organizations deliver far better customer experience than in reality. When you take a look at the way in which we glean insights about customer sentiment, we use surveys and promoter scores and just about any tool we possibly can, and too often they provide the prejudicial idea that we’re good. Although it might make for really impressive charts and graphs and presentations, the information that we glean from these outdated programs is often irrelevant or completely erroneous; and most importantly, they don’t provide actionable insights on how to drive better experiences. We believe we’re much better than we are.

The solution? Use the right survey that will provide the unvarnished truth. Our RealRatings® system specifically asks customers what they dislike about the brand. This gives leaders valuable insights into what areas to improve, because by reducing the hatepoints you inoculate your brand against competitors who could give your customers what you didn’t.