Beyond Customer Satisfaction

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Just when you thought customer satisfaction was surpassed only by exceeding expectations, customer satisfaction rules are changing again.

April 28, 2000

Edward Caldeira, Director of Quality Services, NAHB Research Center


Just when you thought customer satisfaction was surpassed only by exceeding expectations, customer satisfaction rules are changing again. New horizons will alter how we think about customer satisfaction and will shape the future of home building. Here is a preview of what is to come.

Stage 1: Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is the first stage because it seeks only to meet customer expectations and avoid disappointment. The lower the expectation, the easier it is to satisfy customers. The problem is that as you drive customers to lower their expectations, you drive them further away from what they actually want. Meeting or even exceeding customer expectations may not provide them with everything they want, but it is a requirement for moving to the stages beyond customer satisfaction.

Stage 2: Customer Fulfillment

"Customers ... just want exactly what they want," says Joseph Pine in his book "The Experience Economy." Since customers rarely get everything wanted, they buy from the builder who minimizes the difference between what they want and what they expect to get -- termed "customer sacrifice."

The fulfillment strategy aims to reduce customer sacrifice by promising buyers what they want and backing up the promise with superior delivery capabilities. The winning builders in the customer fulfillment marketplace will have the capability to efficiently deliver exactly what customers want while providing extraordinary value.

Stage 3: Customer Delight

Pleasant surprises delight customers. Surprises create transforming experiences unique to the builder who creates them. Breakstone Homes, a Florida luxury home builder, is opening an elaborate 14,000-square-foot custom home design center. The center’s goal is to amaze customers with designs and material choices that allow them to create homes that surpass their dreams. Breakstone is creating customer-transforming experiences that are impossible for buyers to duplicate elsewhere.

Surprises during the home building process delight customers of Shea Homes San Diego, an NHQ winner. Every customer contact is treated as an opportunity to create a rewarding relationship. "We get inside the mind of the customer to anticipate their needs," says Diane Rivera.

Like a well-scripted play, Shea employees provide pre-planned individual attention to customers with predictable results. At scheduled intervals construction personnel contact customers to keep them informed on the progress of their home and answer questions. Shea University seminars impress customers with unexpected attention to quality details. Eleven months after closing customers are surprised when Shea calls to schedule an inspection to find items that they can fix while the home is under warranty.

It is likely that you can find examples of customer satisfaction, fulfillment and delight in your company. Use the experience to create new ideas that continue to drive your company beyond customer satisfaction.

Need more quality information? Call the NAHB Research Center’s ToolBase Hotline at 800/898-2842, e-mail or visit

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