Customer Service Basics

2021 Customer Service Predictions

10 Customer Service Predictions for 2021

If 2020 was to be given a name or a theme, we all will agree that name will be ‘the extraordinary year’. One in which the world experienced a major transformation in its regular way of life. Long-standing traditions were broken, new economic policies were introduced and there was no textbook strategy for how best to handle the global pandemic the world experienced. This shock did not end in the health sector, it changed the way we do business, it changed customer expectations and needs. We can confidently say it created a new reality. We can no longer talk of a return to normal but an adaptation to the new normal. These changes have created new customer service trends. Here are our 10 customer service predictions for 2021.

  1. Increased focus on Quality as a key Satisfaction determinant.
  2. The shift of digital engagement from the web to mobile applications.
  3. Focus on Touchpoints Analysis for optimal allocation of resources.
  4. Increased attention to touchless, self-service and remote service.
  5. Focus on internal customer experience as a tool to shape new corporate cultures.
  6. Decentralisation of the customer service function, with customer service becoming an integral part of every employee’s job description.
  7. Customer service bill of rights becoming more transparent, visible and obligatory.
  8. Shift to inferred feedback collections tools, by harnessing the power of cookies, sentiment analysis and AI.
  9. Multiplicity of customer experience management frameworks with an increased focus on academic customer experience research.
  10. Focus on digital skills as a key customer experience competence for employees.

Let us look at these in detail:

1. Increased focus on Quality as a key Satisfaction determinant.

Quality is an important factor in global competition. With increasing competition and demand by customers for better quality, organizations now realize that it is imperative to provide quality products and services if they must remain competitive in the marketplace. This explains the substantial investments in Total Quality Management Strategies. These strategies permit organisations to deliver products and services that align with customer needs, are better, cheaper, faster and more efficient than those offered by competition, with the participation of everyone in the organisation from top to bottom. (Dilber et al. 2005)

We forecast that in 2021, quality will take a central stage in customer valorisation of products and services. The existing health crisis has reminded people of the need for clean, safe and reliable products and services. This shift in customer expectations is accelerated by technological advancements that have made it easier to compare products and tap into the feedback of other users when making a purchase decision. While warmth in service remains important, quality will supersede warmth.

To remain competitive and customer centric, organisations will need to review their approach to quality. This can be achieved by:

  • Ensuring that each employee is responsible for the quality of the products and services offered to customers and plays an active role in the output obtained.
  • Understanding that quality is determined by customers and as such putting in place the necessary mechanisms to capture and use customer feedback.
  • Putting in place a culture of continuous improvement and empowering employees to find new ways of delivering better quality to customers.
  • Putting in place control mechanisms that measure the attainment of set objectives, identify gaps and quickly resolve them.     

2. The shift of digital engagement from the web to mobile applications.

A recent Gartner study reveals that employee and customer interactions have changed in a significant and permanent manner. It has become more mobile, virtual and distributed. In 2019, Gartner projected that Mobile apps will have the most impact on business success by 2020. A 2020 Statista research reveals that as of the 3rd quarter of 2020 there were over 2,87million apps on Google Play and 1.96 million available apps for iOS.  Though the web browser is still a popular touchpoint, mobile applications are on the rise and provide more personalised interactions with customers.

More and more organisations are rolling in mobile applications to complement their websites. These mobile applications enhance customer relationships, personalises the service offered to each customer, eases collection of feedback, eases customer support and provides more user data. In 2021 we forecast that the shift to mobile will be more visible as organisations seek more personalised avenues to create value for their customers.

3. Focus on Touchpoints Analysis for optimal allocation of resources.

In the early 1980s the president of the Scandinavian Airlines Jan Carlson asserted that ; any time a customer comes into contact with a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression. This impression he defined as a Moment of Truth. Impressions customers create about an organisation as they come in contact with this organisation at different contact points (Touchpoints).

The concept of customer touchpoints has since then been extensively diagnosed by researchers seeking better ways of improving customer experience. Today, most organisations can identify the different touchpoints in their interactions with customers. However, classifying these touchpoints in order of importance or impact and allocating resources more efficiently is still a puzzle to be resolved.

Aichner & Gruber in a 2017 research on managing customer touchpoints, observe that even though every customer touchpoint plays an important role in customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction, businesses usually have limited human and capital resources and must set strategic priorities and allocate their budget to some activities. This therefore requires a detailed customer touchpoints analysis to help determine the most valuable customer touchpoints and provide valuable insights for these strategic decisions.

We expect that in 2021, there will be more focus on touchpoints analysis. This will lead to the development of new models and management frameworks in this focus area.

4. Increased attention to touchless, self-service and remote service.

The first lesson everyone learned in the advent of COVID-19 was that we must avoid greeting each other through handshakes and keep safe distances. Through the year customers and employees became acquainted with the touchless service. This shifted a lot of technological research to how we can continue serving customers and meeting their needs in a touchless economy.

A good example is the technology giant NEC that developed a solution called Smart Guest check-in solution, that respects industry health and safety standards by enabling a touchless interaction. The solution does not only reduce waiting time but also unnecessary contact between guests and hotel staff.

During the 2020 pandemic Chinese retailers developed a touchless retail system. Creating a new way of serving customers while making virtual all customer service that was previously physical. With touchless retail, products are commanded through smartphones, payments done through smartphones, robotics and automation used in order fulfilment with minimal human intervention and automated drop off or pick up stations created in buildings or communities.

While we see these as measures put in place to cope with the pandemic, these innovations have come to stay and are creating new customer needs and expectations. The post COVID era beginning from 2021 will see a progression in such touchless technologies which will improve and promote self service and remote customer interactions.

5. Focus on internal customer experience as a tool to shape new corporate cultures.

Culture according to the Harvard Business Review expresses the organizations ‘ goals through beliefs and values. It guides the activities performed by the entire team through shared assumptions and group norms. It is anchored in unspoken behaviours, social patterns and mindsets.

Corporate culture creates an attitude alliance.  We can describe it as the attitude of the company. It is what the customer feels as he/she interacts with an organisation. Culture shapes the service attitude, defines how far employees are willing to go to assist customers and situates the value of customers to the members of an organisation.

One way to put in place a customer centric culture is through active involvement of leadership in building great internal customer experiences. Creating an environment where employees feel happy to work, feel supported by management and feel as active stakeholders whose contributions are recognised and whose actions are responsible for the success of the organisation.

In 2021, we foresee a greater involvement of the HR function in creating better employee experiences. Customer service will become a core objective of the HR department, with focus on shaping the corporate culture through improved internal customer experiences.

6. Decentralisation of the customer service function, with customer service becoming an integral part of every employee’s job description.

The customer service department and function like we have known will no longer exist. We project a decentralisation of the customer service function within the organisation in 2021.

  • Customer Service at the heart of operations: Technological advancements have changed the way customers interact with companies, from the processing of customer requests, to production of goods and services, down to order fulfilment and post purchase interactions, there is increased attention on customer experience. With the need for personalisation, speed, and ease of use among others. The ability to meet and exceed customers ‘ needs is at the centre of most business operations today.
  • Customer service at the heart of HR: The responsibility for customer satisfaction is shifting to the HR department. This begins with the selection of culture fit employees, training and internal customer experiences. The ability for employees to continuously deliver winning customer experiences depends largely on their training and personal competence. The ability for the HR department to monitor gaps in employee skills and attitudes directly affects the service they will deliver and impacts the overall customer service culture.
  • Customer service on the board: More and more organisations now realize that the absence of a customer service champion on the board is a major handicap to the organisation. The customer service strategy must be defined at the supreme organ of the organisation and the departmental objectives derived from it. The overall objective of the organisation is to satisfy its stakeholders ‘ needs. To meet stakeholder needs, achieving superior customer experience and satisfaction is the surest way to create sustainable value for the customers and the organisation.

We project that in 2021 there will be a higher decentralisation of the customer service function throughout the organisation. Some organisations will see a complete dissolution of the customer service department and the assignment of customer service objectives to all members of the organisation. Everyone will foremost be a customer service representative then accountant, or marketer, or operations head or CEO.

7. Customer service bill of rights becoming more transparent, visible and obligatory.

customer bill of rights is simply those set of rights you accord to your customers. Those very fundamental things your customers deserve and whose non-respect is discriminating against them or depriving them of what they are rightfully due. While this will vary from one organization to another, there are some basic rights that every organization must accord to the customers such as the right to be listened to, the right to complain if they are not satisfied with the products or services, the right to have their privacy respected and their data protected.

Many organisations already have a clearly established customer service bill of rights published on their corporate websites and in strategic positions in their offices and shops. We are predicting a shift from just wilful development of customer bill of rights to a more obligatory practice. We forecast that more professional bodies will make the publication and respect of these customer service rights obligatory.

The pressure may not only come from professional bodies and state regulators but also from customers themselves, who will tend to associate a firm declaration of customer service rights as proof of the company’s commitment to service quality. The customer service bill of rights, shares the corporate culture and gives the customers points by which they can hold organisations accountable.

8. Shift to inferred feedback collections tools, by harnessing the power of cookies, sentiment analysis and AI.

Today’s customers are pouring out tons of data on how they feel about the products and services they use. Putting in place the right feedback collection tools gives an organisation the possibility to collect useful and actionable data.

There are so many ways to know what customers think about us. To begin with, feedback can be collected in 3 ways. There is direct feedback, which is asking the customers’ directly what they think about the services. There is indirect feedback which is learning what customers think about you through other intermediaries and lastly, there is inferred feedback that involves analysing the customer’s words, comments, and statements and determining their emotional state and feelings about us.

Today, feedback tools use web analytics, cookies, sentiment analysis and artificial intelligence, to dig into the customers’ behaviour and sentiments transforming the results into actionable data. Cookie profiling does not just occur when you are on a particular website but the whole time you are browsing.

We forecast that 2021 will be marked by the blending of cookie profiling with sentimental analysis from social media to create clear actionable data on the state of the customer. Feedback collection will go beyond simple feedback forms, NPS and CSAT scores to a more data driven approach.

9. Multiplicity of customer experience management frameworks with increased focus on academic customer experience research.

Just like Colin Shaw expresses his surprise at the massive wealth of academic data on customer experience that does not get used. The question as to why this research remains untapped by practitioners is still a call for concern.

Academicians are beginning to delve more into customer experience research. Becker & Jaakkola posit that for the past decade, customer experience has enjoyed remarkable attention in both marketing practice and research. The increased academic call for research in customer experience has resulted in a dramatic increase in academic publications and significant advancements in scholarly understanding of customer experience.

Despite this abundance in research and publications and the conviction by business leaders that mastery of customer experience is key to competitiveness, most scholarly research is still unused in organisations. We forecast that there will be a major shift in the way in which the products of scholarly research in customer experience are used in development of new customer experience strategies and technologies.

We expect more corporate leaders to translate the products of academic research into actionable strategies for their firms. Consultancy firms will likely take the lead in this area. We also forecast a simplification of these publications to language that is easier for business by authors and bloggers.

10. Focus on digital skills as a key customer experience competence for employees.

As new technologies continue to evolve, the customer service function keeps changing rapidly. This has been accelerated by the 2020 health pandemic that has imposed the shift to the use of technologies throughout the supply chain. Irrespective of the industry the 2020 global health pandemic sent a strong message on the need to gain more digital skills if an employee must remain competitive in the job market.

We forecast that in 2021 allot of training and development will be geared towards preparing employees for digitalisation efforts and giving them competences to serve the digital customer.

Conclusion

These 10 customer service predictions for 2021 are not an exhaustive list of what we predict will shape customer service in 2021 but the most significant changes we forecast will happen. While their occurrence may be to a lesser or greater extent than forecasted, our team at CX Touchpoints Group continue to watch these trends accompany our partners and clients in their customer experience transformation efforts.

Editor: Mbinkar Kpunsa Fomunyuy

Customer Experience Consultant & Author

Customer bill of rights

What is the Customer Service Bill of Rights?

Defining you customer service strategy is one thing but communicating that position to the customers is another thing all together. In this article we would understand what a customer’s bill of rights is and how we can develop and publicize one.

What is a bill of rights?

The Oxford languages dictionary defines  Bill of rights as a formal declaration of the legal and civil rights of the citizens of any state, country, federation, etc. This bill of rights or chatter of rights is simply the list of the most important rights to the citizen of a country.

The 10 first amendments of the constitution of the united states of America, or Bill of rights of the united states of America include rights like the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition, rights of accused person, rights of trial by jury in civil cases etc. The point here is to show you the fundamental nature of the rights that make up the bill of rights. The purpose of these rights is to protect the citizens against excessive government infringement.

The customer bill of rights

A customer bill of rights is simply those set of rights you accord to your customers. Those very fundamental things your customers deserve and whose non respect is discriminating against them or depriving them of what they are rightfully due. While this would vary from one organization to another,  there are some basic rights that every organization must accord to the customers such as the right to be listened to. The right to complain if they are not satisfied with the products or services, the right to have their privacy respected and their data protected.

How can I create a customer bill of rights?

Creating a customer bill of rights requires team effort by the organization. The starting point of this process is to access the quality of service you currently offer to the  customers. There are three ways of getting this right ; knowing what the employees think, what the customers think and the getting expert opinion on the health of your customer service. Listen to the voice of the customer through feedback to know what their impressions are.

Once the areas of amelioration have all been identified. The next phase is to decide on the strategy that will be used to solve the problems raised as well as the new attitude which every employee would have to adopt. This consist of making new customer service resolutions. What we want to change. How we hope to change it. Who shall be in charge of each action.

At this point we have a clear pictures of how much our customer service has been hurting or helping our customers. Based on the resolutions made, you can now state your customers’ rights  which we must respect going forward. Setting a bill of rights announces to the customers your dedication to improving their experience and defines clearly the promises you make to them. It has a big impact on shaping the customers’ expectations and serves as a measuring tool for the services delivered.

CX TouchPoints Group

Let our experts create a bill of rights for your organisation.

Publication and examples of our customer service bill of rights.

The job doesn’t end with developing lofty rights for the customer. We need to communicate this to the customer. Make it visible and put it where ever customer can have access to. Make sure your team goes through these rights as often as possible so they do not forget the promise you have made to the customers.

There are many creative ways in which some companies have developed this concept. Though the appellations may change the central idea remains the same. Here are a few examples. The Ritz Carlton hotels and resorts defines 12 service values in their  Gold Standard a set of pronouncements which encompasses their values and philosophy.

The herb’s auto customer bill of rights includes the promise to do free tire rotation with yearly inspection, free copying service, free lifetime emergency towing and more. They  inscribe this nicely and publicly on their website.

Republic west Remodeling Customer’s Bill of rights provides a guide by which customers can set their expectations for any home remodeling project. They present 10 rights which are beautifully published on their website. These include; the right to know before customers agree to any project what the project cost will be upon contract signing, along with a true and accurate understanding of what the project will cost upon its completion.

Another great example is the Neal Tire and auto service bill of rights in which the company commits to be responsive and respectful, to sell only what customer needs, to provide clear explanation of cost before doing any work, to have trained professionals working on the customers’ vehicles, to keep customers updated on the status of their vehicle and to provide clean and comfortable place for the customer to wait.

Customer-bill-of-rights Neal.

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights / Consumer Bill of Rights

In the United states of America in 2012, the Obama administration enacted the consumer privacy bill of rights in view of improving consumer privacy protection. These include the right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect, the right to easily understand an access information about privacy and security practices, the right to expect that companies will collect use and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent,  consumers  right to responsible handling of their personal data, the right to access and correct personal data, the right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain among others. 

Just like in the above intervention by the Obama administration, in 1952 president John F. Kennedy extolled for 4 basic consumer rights in his speech to congress on March 15th; the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose and the right to be heard. These rights also called the consumer bill of rights were latter expanded to 8 rights by the united nations through its guidelines for consumer protection. These additions included the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to redress, the right to consumer education and the right to a healthy environment.

The value of a customer service bill of rights.

As we can see in the above examples. Having a bill of rights is an assurance of the quality that would be delivered. It raises the confidence level of the customers in your ability to deliver great service. It is an indication of the quality of the products and services that would be received. Your customer service bill of rights sets the bar for the kind of service you would deliver and permit to differentiate you from competition.

Mbinkar Kpunsa F.

Author

The Customer Service Code of Conduct

The Customer Service code of conduct is a guide on core values and expected behavior for Customer service professionals developed by CX TouchPoints Group.

Values

  • Cheerfulness
  • Empathy
  • Responsiveness
  • Respect
  • Honesty

Conduct

  1. Always keep in mind that the business exists because of the customers, your job exists because of the customer. Before you serve each customer remember they are the reason you are into business and serve them in a way that fulfills that mission.
  2. Maintain a positive attitude at all times, it is the right recipe for a great day at work.
  3. Make sure the customer gets the best deal, by honoring the promise the company has made and your engagements.
  4. Even if it is evident that it was the customers´ fault still let them leave with dignity and without feeling embarrassed.
  5. Be grateful to customers for raising their complaints. Thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  6. When serving customers, tailor the level of engagement with each customer´s unique needs.
  7. Keep a smile at all times.
  8. Greet customers warmly. This demonstrates to them that you are happy to serve them.
  9. Escalate any challenges and complaints you cannot handle quickly and follow up on their resolution.
  10. Always inform the customer on what is happening or the progress on their request, so as to avoid information gaps that lead to poor service.
  11. Call the customer by their name. This shows they are unique and you know them personally.
  12. Look neat at all times. Your looks are part of your body language and could be sending wrong signals.
  13. Do not discuss non-work related issues with a colleague when serving a customer. Be brief with work-related discussions with colleagues when serving a customer.
  14. Never shout across a customer. Move to the person you want to talk to and talk in a calm and low tone.
  15. Take time to know your products and services. Customers nowadays are very knowledgeable and can verify the facts you present. Display of lack of product knowledge leads to a poor experience.
  16. Provide the right information to customers. Do not trick them into signing deals or buying products.
  17. Honestly assess your customer’s challenges and recommend the best products for them, even if they are not the most profitable for the company.
  18. Never share customers’ private information without their consent.
  19. Display equal respect for all customers. No customer is more important than another.
  20. Always give customers a listening ear, listening enables you to get the facts of their story and also permits them to air out.
  21. Remember your first job description is to give every customer at every interaction with you, their best experience ever with your brand.
  22. You are not in competition with your colleagues on who offers the best customer service, share your customer service best practices and learn from others.
  23. Never take personal what the customer says or writes when they are frustrated. Remain composed and act professionally at all times. This could be the beginning of their best experience with the brand if handled well.
customer service code of conduct
Customer Service Code of Conduct #34
  1. Be happy to receive complaints on behalf of the company, this is the biggest single gift a customer could give a company.
  2. Always thank the customer for coming, at the end of the interaction and ask them if they are satisfied.
  3. Raise alarm to hierarchy on any observations about a customer’s behavior which could lead to future bad experience, this proactive way of dealing with problems creates ravings fans.
  4. Do not wait for problems to erupt, solve problems that are developing even before they erupt this is a demonstration of customer experience heroism.
  5. Do your work well and keeping it simple and easy, this makes your colleagues work better.
  6. Use positive language when discussing with customers and colleagues, no not criticize or condemn.
  7. Be polite and courteous, this makes you more accessible and motivates customers to approach you and trust you.
  8. Take ownership of customer complaints. Follow then up till resolution and notify the customers when the solution has been obtained.
  9. Acknowledge emails and electronic submissions within the same day of reception.
  10. Be time conscious and notify about challenges before and not after the deadline.
  11. Above all know that your mission is to be the bridge between the heart of the customer and the heart of the company.
Customer service code of conduct

This is the Customer service code of conduct, a fair representation of what makes great customer service professionals. #CustomerServiceCode

What is Customer Service?

In this article we will discuss what customer service is all about. This guide brings out the importance of customer service and its central role in every organisation. It also permits us to understand who the customer is and what role customer satisfaction plays in the success of the organisation.

Importance of customer service.


“What if customer Service was a basic human right?” Patricia Pedhom Nono

Organizations are created to serve customers. The customer is the very essence of every profession. Be it a business unit, non-governmental organization or governmental organization. The customer is the center of every profession. You may be from the medical, legal, political or religious core, we all serve customers.

We may not have the same type of customers. Your customers could be children, they could be citizens, patients, followers, or your students. We all have customers and we all serve customers. You can therefore perceive the customer as the beneficiary of your activity.

So Customer service is a way of life, and everyone around us is a customer. Some customers could already be benefiting from our services and others yet to. We are all in the business of serving customers and must serve both the existing and potential customers well.,

Customer service is therefore central to every organization and the mastery of this very important aspect of organizational life is important for organizational success.

Let us look at the definition of customer service, what motivates customers, why they behave the way they do and how we could be able to satisfy their needs with simple actions.

Business dictionary defines customer service as “All interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter. Customer service adds value to a product and builds enduring relationship.”

This definition brings out three main things about customer service.

“All interactions”, “adds Value”, “Relationship”.

The error most people do is to think that customer service is about a single interaction. It is wrong to think that customer service happens only when the customer is buying from us.

The words “All interactions”, means even when the potential customer visits, buys or passes around our premises. The nature of the interaction will either add value to the organization or reduce it. The role of good customer service is to add value to the organization by creating value for the customers. The third point states, it is a “Relationship”. This brings to light the emotional connect that must exist in customer service. Going beyond a mere contact to build sustainable relationships.

Customer service entails being able to anticipate and satisfy the needs of existing and potential customers in a consistent and dependable manner. Good service entails a conscious act and must be consistent. This explains why staff may need to undergo training in customer service to be able to have a consistent high level of service throughout the system.

You must be wondering, if customer service is this important why is it not a rule. Now you see the point. “What if customer service was just a basic human right”? Certainly some organization’s which we will call customer centric organizations have understood this lesson.

A company, must not only have eyes on profits but also on how best to serve its customers. Profits and market share are the products of listening to customers and acting upon their needs. 

Customer centric companies recognize staff members who balance job efficiency with customer satisfaction. Their managers focus on supporting their staff in doing their jobs well. This permits staff to focus their attention on taking care of customer needs. Such companies exhibit a participative management style where staff have opportunities to offer feedback on key customer issues before decisions are made.

So you can now see that customer service is the bridge between the customer and the brand or the organization. The customer is therefore one of the pillars of the sales act.

Service a core pillar in the 3ps of the sales act

3Ps of the sales Act

To sell a product, three basic conditions are necessary; the first is that we must have an element or something which we are selling; (i.e. the product or the service).  Secondly we must have the medium through which we will sell the product or service (i.e. the place or venue), and lastly we must have the buyer who needs the product or service and would like to acquire it.

Without a buyer to acquire the product the good remains with us. So selling is only made complete with the buyer acquiring the product.  The physical or immaterial transfer of the product materializes the sales act and provides a framework for customer service.

Till date, allot of focus has been put on the product and the place and very little attention has been given to the buyer. It is sad that the most important element of a sales act is the most ignored. Let us have a deep look at the distinction between the product, the place and the person (which we call here the 3ps of the sales act).

Product and place are inanimate whereas the person is animate. Meaning once the product and place have been decided on, we could easily forecast the impact these two will have on the sales act. E.g. lighting effects and music during sales promotions would attract allot of attention. A very beautiful car will attract attention, a well painted and decorated office would be attractive to customers as such the product and service once configured permits to obtain almost certainly a particular output.  This is not the case with human beings or persons.

People at times react differently from what we expect. This is a good reason why you need to understand who your customers is and determine their reactions to situations. The key question here is, how do we keep customers satisfied?

 Customers represent both an input and an output to the enterprise. This explains why a satisfied customer always returns and always speaks positively of the enterprise thus attracting more customers. Quality management puts a lot of emphasis on transforming customers into assets for the enterprise.

Once the customer visits a sales point he or she leaves that sales point with a feeling. This feeling could pull them back or push them away. This feeling is what we call a perception. The enterprise should be able to determine the feelings of their customers and harness them into actionable insights. Johnson and Clark (2001) state that customer satisfaction levels vary between two extremes; delighted and dissatisfied.


When you serve a customer well, they leave satisfied. The bad news is; this satisfied customer could seek the same service elsewhere either to compare what others have to offer or simply because they expected good service from you in the first place. Delighted customers on the other hand will often come back, while a dissatisfied customer most often go away.


After having a positive experience with a company, 77% of customers would recommend it to a friend. Temkin Group


The key point here is; it’s not enough to serve the customer well but to give the customer a reason to always come back. To achieve this all we need is go the extra mile. Offer the extra service, offer beyond the normal without necessarily increasing the price. The service should be more than proportionate to the price paid.

Transformed customers constitute a human resource to be valorized by the enterprise. We could do a distinction here between internal human resource (workers) and internalized human resource (transformed customers). Just like workers emotions and psychophysiology is studied, measured and nurtured, so too should customer feelings and expectations. We must study the psychophysiology of the satisfied customer. The enterprise must be able to put in place a customer satisfaction management system. How we relate with the customer shows our customer intimacy.

Customer intimacy

Customer satisfaction management requires a blend of psychology, sociology, philosophy and quality management techniques. Customer satisfaction is as important as financial management within the organization and must be given the required attention and resources. Increasing customer value through customer intimacy can permit revenue growth.

Increasing customer value, through customer intimacy can permit revenue growth.  Looking at the value creation map presented by Bernard Marr et Al. of the Grandfield School of management you will observe that intangibles drive up the value of tangibles. Customer satisfaction constitutes one of the greatest intangibles of an organization.

Customer satisfaction as an intangible asset

Strategically, intangible assets constitute a great competitive advantage. Identifying the opportunities present to an enterprise would be of no use, if the enterprise cannot be able to use its knowhow to discern and create value out of its intangibles. It’s worth noting that customer satisfaction as an intangible asset is not easy to measure but if well-conceived and valorized, it could be measured by the spillover effects it has on performance.

It takes just the right attitude to transform customers. The fact that the customer moves to your sales point either by curiosity or conviction doesn’t make that person an intangible asset for you. Building a strong professional relation on the foundation of satisfaction is what creates the asset.

Customer satisfaction as a key performance indicator

Customer satisfaction is a key performance indicator due to the fact that, when the customers are satisfied then the future of the business is guaranteed, then liquidities would come in, then the enterprise would have a good image, which further reinforces the customer perception.

For a customer to be satisfied we must understand his needs. Once these needs are satisfied, the customer becomes satisfied and when we go beyond satisfying his needs the customer is delighted. What therefore are customer needs? How do we discern them? How do we satisfy them?

Customer Needs

Maslow’s hierachy of needs

The American Psychologist Abraham Maslow demonstrates that man has seven innate needs. Let us focus on the first two which he termed higher order needs:

  • The need for freedom of inquiry and expression;
  • The need for knowledge and understanding;

How does the understanding of this model help us build a better relationship with customers?

To answer this question we would further borrow from the techniques of effective communication. To communicate well we must master four things:

  • Listen well
  • Speak well
  • Write well
  • Read well

Focusing on the first which is listening, we could link it to Maslow’s first need ‘freedom of inquiry and expression’. We must allow customers freely express themselves, without cutting in or assuming we know what they are about to say. Listening to a customer with attention permits him or her to satisfy this need for expression and inquiry.

Secondly we must be flexible enough to speak well, or write well. These three aspects permit to enhance understanding. A customer who is well served but whose doubts have not been clarified most certainly would not be satisfied. Our writing to customers must be visible and we must adapt our tone and choice of words to permit the customer understand us well. Good communication alone is a strong factor of satisfaction 

Customers therefore have very basic needs:

Customer’s needs
  • The need to be understood
  • The desire to feel important
  • The feeling that they are welcome
  • The need to be listened to

These needs are basic, they are simple but require skill. When you carry out these simple actions that aim at satisfying the customer it is important to obtain some feedback to know if you achieved your goal.

Customer Satisfaction feedback

Customer satisfaction is both an input and an output to the enterprise. Looking at it from the marketing perspective the role of marketing is to anticipate and supply customer requirements efficiently and profitably. Which means enterprises should understand that what they sell is not products but a promise of satisfaction.

The core task of marketing is determining customer needs and ensuring that these needs are met. Sales are only complete when we obtain feedback on the services offered. Customer satisfaction thus needs to be measured and analyzed so as to determine the internal processes that permit to obtain the financial output.

With the multiplication of products and services everywhere, you cannot afford to send customers away unsatisfied. This does not mean unsatisfied customers would not exist, they would, and this is why you must learn how to deal with difficult customers and transforming them into advocates

Customer Satisfaction goes beyond the product

When you watch adverts today, you notice that most often, nothing is said about the product itself, focus is on a storyline, a catchy event. Why are companies all turning green, promoting environmental protection, ethics and social values? To understand this let us look at two theories. First, the pyramid of needs of Abraham Maslow.


The lesson to be brought forth here is that, instead of focusing so much efforts on products, focus should be on the needs that the products satisfy. According to Maslow until inferior level needs are satisfied the person does not move to higher level needs. So it is not the product we should focus on, but the link between the product and the needs of the people. Showing how their needs would be met through the consumption of the product.

This explains why in most adverts, little attention is given to the technical attributes of the product, and focus is on captivating the buyers attention and stimulating their emotions. Of course as a buyer you would only be interested in a service or product you think will satisfy your needs.

The sales person should be able to identify the dominant needs of each customer and thus act as a bridge between the product and the heart of the customer. Let us take a simple case of the banking sector. The banker could tell a student how savings enables to meet us with their feeding that shelter needs. Tell a newly employed how savings gives him security and freedom, tell business man how savings would enable him build his asset base, and tell a retiring millionaire how choosing his institution guarantees a future for his children. The idea is assuring satisfaction, by demonstrating what is in it for the customer.

The second theory is that which focuses on the different product levels. Each product has 3 levels:

  • The functional level
  • The symbolic level
  • The material level

The material aspect of the product is what we see, feel and touch. Its color, its size, its beauty. The functional level of the product is what it does or its use, while the symbolic is the perception of the customer as to what he or she is consuming and how others will perceive them as they consumes the product.

Taking time to demonstrate the symbolic elements of the product or service permits to enhance customer satisfaction. Many people would buy a product just for the perception others have of them consuming it or the feeling they have consuming it. So give to the customers what they need. Be it affection, security, recognition, fulfillment; these needs once satisfied transforms them into delighted customers.

Because of this importance attached to the concept of customer service several experts have developed theories on how to improve the overall customer experience (considered to be more holistic concept), measuring the level of satisfaction and integrating this into the strategic objectives of the organization.  Software developers today are able to gather data on the customers and use this to develop insights and speculations about their behavior. Today the concept goes beyond just service and encloses the entire customer Journey.

It is important to see the customer as a stakeholder in the organization. The customer is not just a stakeholder but a major stakeholder and they are the reason for which the organization exist. It is difficult to separate customer service from sales. As we are always selling either a service, a product or a perception to customers.