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October 6, 2010

Are you satisfied?

In the business world, satisfaction (customer, vendor, employee) is highly studied. In fact, many models for expressing and evaluating satisfaction have been identified and are in use. One popular ‘model’ for identifying what ‘drives’ satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) is the Kano Model. The model looks like this:

The horizontal axis represents the degree to which ‘something’ is either provided or achieved. For instance, when you evaluate a cell phone you may have a list of features you desire/expect. If all of them are provided you would be on the right side of the horizontal line. If none of them were provided you would be towards the left side of the horizontal line.

The vertical line represents the degree of satisfaction achieved. The top represents complete satisfaction and the bottom complete dissatisfaction.

In the Kano model drivers of satisfaction are grouped into three basic types. The first type are called EXPRESSED. Expressed drivers are things people request; ask for; state a preference for. Here’s what the Kano model curve looks like for expressed features.

If someone expresses a desire for something and it is not provided the result is dissatisfaction. If the desire is expressed and fully met the result is a high degree of satisfaction. Of course, a middle result is possible when one or more features are partially provided or not fully provided.

A second type of driver of satisfaction is EXCITEMENT. Excitement is produced by providing features that are not even being expressed as desirable. These are typically new features. The first iPod produced excitement. The first moon roof produced excitement. Flowers in your motel room might produce excitement. Social Security excited people when first introduced. Adding excitement to the model looks like this:

Excitement only produces increased satisfaction. Even partial excitement increases satisfaction. Well done (achieved) or fully provided features produce large amounts of satisfaction. In fact, you can see from the figure that partial excitement can drive satisfaction higher than fully met expressed desires.

More interestingly, there is a third driver of satisfaction. That driver is called EXPECTED. When added, the Kano model looks like this:

This curve is fascinating and illuminating. You see, when a feature is expected and you don’t provide it – people get very dissatisfied. Imagine getting on a 4 hour flight and not being provided a beverage service. You’d be royally disappointed. You expect a beverage service on a long flight. In fact, you wouldn’t even ask for it (express a desire for it). You might ask if your seat has a power source to plug your computer in (expressed feature). But you just expect a drink. The most telling feature, however, is that this curve NEVER reaches even mild satisfaction. In fact, providing people what they have come to expect, AT BEST, achieves only indifference.

I said providing people ‘what they have come to expect’ for a very specific reason. You see, over time this is what happens.

Features no one was even thinking about pop up in products and services and create excitement. Over time, however, people start expressing an interest in that feature. They ask for it. After more time, so many people have expressed a desire for the feature that it simply becomes expected.  No one even asks for it anymore.  they just expect it.

In so many ways this slope is inspiring. It’s what keeps us getting better and better phones, computers, cars, etc. It’s what drives people to innovate. That's very positive.

However, this same model applies in other areas of life. For instance, how we view government. Or our family situation. Or our jobs. And it produces alarming results. Things that once produced excitement now produce indifference. What have you done for me lately? So, parents have to constantly give their kids more to stave off indifference. Our jobs have to produce more (pay, responsibility, excitement, etc) for us to be satisfied. And government must constantly provide more to keep people satisfied. The result of not getting more over time is diminishing satisfaction and indifference.

For instance, the following figure shows the slippery slope that results from the Kano Model applied to government.  What should (and were) thought of as privileges that produced satisfaction soon degrade into entitlements which, sadly, produce no satisfaction. 

So, what is the antidote?

Until I. Until we – can view what we have with thankfulness we will never be satisfied people. Thankfulness elevates the expected to produce satisfaction (the Bible uses the word contentment – or the state of being satisfied).

Thankfulness recognizes that what has long been provided remains worthy of appreciation. It provides perspective. It produces stability.

We can either continue to press for more, more, more; and likely bankrupt ourselves (emotionally, financially, spiritually, corporally) or we can be more thankful for what we have – or even – shockingly – give up some things we have come to expect and still be thankful for what remains (less).

I am meditating on this verse today: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since .. you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

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