A few years ago I attended a business networking event. It took place on a luxurious ship that sailed for three days and had something like thirty business meetings taking place, along with a high-level conference.

The night before it all kicked off I was in the bar with someone who turned out to be the chief executive of a very large financial institution. We got chatting and I asked him who he was interesting in speaking with.  Although he and I weren’t scheduled to meet, I might be able to give him some background on those firms he was going to see.

He said he wasn’t really interested in seeing anyone. He was very happy with his company’s key suppliers and indeed, over the last few months had written to each of them to say how satisfied he was with the work they were doing.

That took me aback. After all, firms like mine had paid a substantial amount to go and meet people like him.  So I rather cheekily I asked him if he felt he was a bit of a fraud for coming if he was so satisfied with his current suppliers.

“Absolutely not”, he explained. “It’s just that if he came across someone here who was doing something better or different I would be duty bound to consider it”.

He was satisfied. But not committed. He could possibly be tempted away with a better offer.

I know that in most organisations when you get a letter from the chief executive saying how satisfied he is, you can be tempted to sit back and pat yourself on the back. You probably show it to the board and your colleagues and congratulate the team. You might even have a small celebration. Just maybe, too, you can be tempted to take your foot off the accelerator and divert your attention to clients who you think might need a bit more attention.

Even more surprising to me are those organisations  who when I ask them about their relationships with key clients say everything is fine. How do they know? Well, they shrug their shoulders and say “they haven’t told us there’s a problem so they must be satisfied!”

I came across an interesting statistic published by Bain a few years ago who found that – between 60-80% of those companies who defected in the previous year  from a supplier relationship answered ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ in the satisfaction questionnaire completed before they went elsewhere.

So here’s the question: is client satisfaction ever enough to stop clients walking out the door and shouldn’t those who manage client relationships push themselves to aim for and measure something more ambitious such as client commitment.