Don't delude yourself into thinking that customers are satisfied merely with a delivery man saying 'thank you for shopping with us'

I recently had a fridge freezer delivered by Comet. The two guys were friendly, punctual and performed the task just one step up from perfunctorily.

Then one of them asked me if I'd been 'fully satisfied with the service I'd received from Comet today'.

Like most Brits, I quickly answered 'yes', eager not to get involved in an ugly confrontation. Encouraged by this, he then asked me more questions before handing me the delivery note.

Finally, he shuffled uneasily from side to side and without making eye contact offered this parting shot: "I'm not being funny or anything but ... thank you for shopping at Comet."

He couldn't have looked more embarrassed had he bent forward and kissed me on the cheek.

Obviously he'd been trained to leave the customer with this final thought, though not in the art of ­delivering it.

Later, on the Comet website, I found a form I could fill in to comment on the delivery service. The final question - to which the answer was a simple yes or no - was: did the driver say 'Thank you for shopping at Comet'?

Well, yes he did. But without an ounce of sincerity. Comet now thinks I'm happy and that its service was, perhaps, in some way, 'superior'.

A recent survey by Bain & Co revealed that 80% of nearly 400 company executives believe they deliver a 'superior experience' to customers. The problem is, only 8% of customers agree. Quite a gap. To close it, companies need to focus on the entire customer experience. Customers don't care about how your departments function or how staff are incentivised. And the ultimate test of any company's delivery lies in what customers tell others.

By way of contrast with the Comet experience, we had three new sofas delivered recently. I was really impressed by the two guys who delivered them. They were courteous, considerate, efficient and polite. I called the lady we had bought the sofas from and told her we had just taken delivery.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing's wrong," I replied. "I wanted you to know how good your delivery guys were."

She was grateful I had called but was surprised. I was the first person who had called to say thank you. And she told me she didn't call customers to check everything was delivered as planned because they might be unhappy and complain to her.

So how do you find out what customers really think? Well, don't ask questions that require just a 'yes' or 'no'. Ask to be graded from one to 10 on every aspect of your service. And then ask the brave question: 'what do we do to have to get to 10?' Because the most successful companies don't simply talk good service, they listen to the real voices of customers. n

Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on the psychology of persuasion and the author of 'Life's A Game So Fix The Odds'.