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Why Customer Satisfaction Doesn't Mean Customer Retention—and What You Can Do About It

by Sean Geehan  |  
December 14, 2010

In this article, you'll learn how to...

  • Separate customer feedback by level (influencer, decision maker, end user) to align with market needs
  • Center efforts on the decision maker to achieve sustainable growth

Recently, I met with the person who leads the voice of the customer (VOC) program for a $1.6B company in an industry that is in complete transformation.

She proudly told me that more than 1,000 respondents replied to the latest customer survey. And the numbers were great: More than 85% of the respondents were either satisfied or highly satisfied with the services the company offered.

The problem? The firm has only a 68% retention rate.

Most organizations try to predict retention rates based on customer-satisfaction scores. The reality is that in B2B, user satisfaction does not equal customer retention. Here's why...

I asked the person in charge of VOC, "Of the 1,000-plus respondents, how many were decision makers?" Her response: "Zero." Only three responses were from influencers; virtually all the responses were from the user/purchasing level.

Key question: Is yours a holistic VOC program or simply a Voice of the User program?

Such a situation is very common. I rarely see more than a 20% weighting of decision makers and influencers combined in VOC programs. Consequently, such customer surveys and programs are most often deceiving and misleading.

Remember, most customers who leave a company leave satisfied. The truth is that user satisfaction does not equal customer retention!

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Sean Geehan is CEO and founder of the Geehan Group (, which connects executives to their most important customers in order to maximize customer retention, sales, profit, and long-term market alignment. Sean is the author of the upcoming book The B2B Executive Playbook. Contact him via or 877-226-1621.

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  • by Jayateerth Fri Apr 22, 2011 via web

    Hey Sean,
    This is one beautiful case i have read.. thanks for sharing your inputs and I would also wish to add 1 more point towards retention is that,
    The firms are looking at newer techonologies and upgrading (vertical selling) customers for the longer term retention and thus higher predictability...

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