From satisfier to dissatisfier
31 December 2013
As the world moves forward, people come to expect certain things. If the trains in your country run late de facto, a train that arrives on time is something that you feel happy about – a satisfier. As the railway company improves their service so that the trains start running on time, a train that arrives on time is no longer a satisfier; in fact, everything that doesn’t meet this new standard of timeliness – a train running late – has become a dissatisfier.
When you improve something, you raise the bar permanently. First, this new level of pleasure works as a satisfier. With time, however, people adapt to the new level of pleasure and start taking it for granted; the old state of affairs has become a dissatisfier.
People are no longer pleasantly surprised when a product or a service is a pleasure to use; they are unpleasantly surprised if that isn’t the case. To make them pleasantly surprised again, you have to exceed the prevailing pleasure level – to install comfortable seats to trains running on time.
A surround sound system in a movie theatre used to be a satisfier; nowadays the lack of it would be considered a dissatisfier. Broadband Internet connections used to be a luxury that only certain institutions were blessed with; today you are ready to ditch your telecom carrier if high-definition video doesn’t stream seamlessly in your phone wherever and whenever. A similar move from a satisfier to a dissatisfier applies to an earlier communication technology product:
One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA.
When telephones were so scarce that not even every major city had one, having access to a telephone must have been a great satisfier. Since they have reached a level of ubiquity, not having access to one has become a dissatisfier.
When you raise the bar, you can never go back without dissatisfying your people.