It’s a no-brainer that high customer satisfaction indicates a positive shopping experience, and dissatisfaction indicates a problematic experience, but what does it tell you about the shopping experience when customers report that they’re just “satisfied”?

Customer satisfaction is a spectrum, and customers who say they are satisfied can be describing a wide range of experiences – none of which they found remarkable. These customers don’t harbor any particularly negative feelings to keep them from shopping with you, but they don’t have strongly positive feelings about your brand either.

Do they sound like customers who will consistently choose you over your competitors? They don’t to me.

Why Satisfied Isn’t Enough

Why is it so important to make the jump from satisfying customers to delighting them? Customers who find your service merely acceptable aren’t likely to be loyal, and they aren’t likely to become brand advocates who bring you new customers.

Fulfilling your customers’ basic needs is only the first step to earning their repeat business. Meeting minimal expectations is enough to keep your customers from leaving you, but it won’t bring them back to you again and again. In order to earn a customer’s loyalty, you also have to exceed expectations.

A recent survey conducted by American Express found that 2 out of 5 consumers believe that companies are helpful, but don’t do anything extra to keep their business. These are the customers who are merely satisfied, and they want you to go above and beyond to win them over. To do that, you need to find out what they want, in their own words – but that’s not always easy to accomplish.

How to Reach the Middle

The first step to understanding your satisfied customers is to realize that you may have more customers in this middle range than you thought.

The same American Express study found that 59% of American consumers feel that companies generally “meet their expectations,” while only 7% said they “exceeded their expectations.” Those are scary odds when you’re trying to earn consumer loyalty.

What can you do to improve your brand’s relationship with the large number of customers who find you merely adequate? Reach out to them for feedback.

Your first tool to gain insight into these customers’ feelings is a customer satisfaction survey. However, elective surveys like those on receipts often attract your most and least satisfied customers. It is their emotional connection to the experience that makes these consumers want to take the survey when they get home.

This means that your surveys may not reflect the thoughts of your “satisfied enough” customers, since they have no emotional connection to your brand. By offering strong incentives for taking surveys, you can increase your sample size and get a more accurate depiction of customer satisfaction in your stores.

The way you ask questions and allow your customers to answer is equally important to getting actionable results. For example, offering text boxes for answers will allow your customers to give more complex answers than a 1 to 10 scale allows. When you ask for more than the simplest answer, many of your satisfied customers will tell you exactly what you need to do to earn their loyalty.

By approaching your customers after they finish shopping, you can get honest feedback from a representative sample of customers while your brand is on their minds, including those who had a merely satisfactory experience. Customer Intercept Surveys also gather feedback from a group you may not often hear from: customers who leave your store without purchasing anything.

Simply gathering feedback from your satisfied customers may not be a magic solution to increasing customer retention, but it’s the right place to start. By searching out data from consumers you may not otherwise hear from, you get the tools you need to engage a larger percentage of your clientele and earn their loyalty in the long term.