Customer SatisfactionAuthor: Byron Pulsifer, © 2017
You can't talk to many people today without the subject of customer satisfaction coming to the forefront. It wasn't that many years ago when customer service was not only what most people would argue was much better but was the normal. So, what has happened to one's satisfactory experiences when dealing with the new companies of today?
How Is Customer Satisfaction DefinedBefore we can adequately talk about the subject of customer satisfaction, we have to first of all define what it is. Here are a few examples of definitions that are used to describe what customer satisfaction means:
1) It is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation, or
2) The degree of satisfaction provided by the goods or services of a company as measured by the number of repeat customers, or
3) The number of customers, or percentage of total customers, whose reported experience with a firm, its' products, or its' services exceeds specified satisfaction goals, or
4) It is a term used to describe a scenario when an exchange meets the needs and expectations of its user.
What Do These Customer Satisfaction Definitions Mean?As you can see, there are multiple definitions concerning the same action, i.e. service to a customer, where the end result of the exchange generally leads to either being satisfied with one's experience or being dissatisfied with one's experience. One of the main ingredients of all of these definitions is that there must be a human exchange before a customer satisfaction score can be given. Well, maybe the latter statement is incorrect. Let's take a closer look at the components of what constitutes customer satisfaction.
Human ExpectationsWhen I referred to the necessity of a human interaction occuring before one can rate or score as to the level of customer satisfaction experienced, I was thinking of a situation where one person, i.e. the customer, interacts with another person, i.e. the retailer or supplier of a service or product. Here we have an example that we can all understand when two people meet face to face and it is the resultant interaction that forms the customer experience. So far so good.
But, what happens when a person is forced to interact with a computer software program? Does the addition of interacting with a computer software program, and eliminating a person to person request, for example ordering a product online, enhance or diminish a possible satisfactory customer experience? Well, you've probably had great or not so great levels of satisfaction when you've ordered something online. But, here's what I've experienced first hand and maybe you've felt the same way.
How Do I Talk To A Real Person?In past months, I have had ocassion to be dissatisfied with an online shopping experience and wanted to speak with a customer service representative to rectify the situation. Many times, however, not only was it difficult or impossible to find a support email, it was impossible to speak to a real human being. It would appear, in a lot of cases, that true customer service has been replaced with an attitude that what you get is simply what you get and no more. This means to me that a product or a service sale is the end of the line and customer service, if it exists, is considered an afterthought.
What you may have also noticed in many online product sales is that a huge amount of sales material is outlined with little or no customer service mentioned. So, is customer service dead in the online world or is it a matter that one needs to carefully scour the online market place to find any semblance of what I call "real customer service" embedded clearly in their customer creed?
What Should Customer Service Really Say?What I find interesting is that our previous review of the differing definitions of customer satisfaction failed to highlight customer service seemingly more dependent on one's initial satisfaction with the product or service and neglecting a vital component within the linear buying experience. That is to say that customer service, the service that is provided to the customer to resolve issues, takes on less of a significant part of the entire purchasing process. It is as if a company says that you should be very pleased and happy with our product or service and there should never be an instance when you need to come to us to help resolve an issue or problem.
What I believe that has been left out of the total equation, especially in those online markets, is the underlying notion that a person to person contact has become less worthy than a computer reply. I am not saying, by the way, that some companies do not offer superb online customer service. What I am saying, though, is that the worth of a person, the worth of a one-on-one contact has been eroded because of profitability targets.
Yesterday's Customer ServiceFrom firsthand experience owning and managing a small handmade craft store, I can tell you without any hesitation that customer service was the hall mark of our increasing and return visits. In other words, customer service both at the time of the sales event and, if needed, following the sales event were stressed as to be of equal importance. This equality of service led to recommendations from our customers to others including their immediate and extended family members and to their visitors.
Not that many years ago, before the big box stores and the huge malls, a visit to a local store was often about the expectation of human dialogue and interaction coupled with a good product. One could argue that the product was sold smothered in a real desire to serve people. In fact, I can recall days gone by when I went and purchased an item at a local store both out of need of the product and also for the experience of being treated more as a friend and a person worth spending time with than a dollar mark walking through the door.
Do you think I'm a supporter of big box stores? No, I'm not until such time as the owners translate to their employees that a satisfied customer is more than a person who doesn't attempt to return a product. Since my choices of different locally owned stores continues to rapidly disappear, so does, in my view, what real customer service is all about.
A Return Of Growth Through Customer ServiceAnd, returning to our little handmade craft store example, I can tell you as a matter of fact that our customer base grew through word of mouth sales. Why can I say this?
Simply put, it was the word of mouth referrals that grew our business because we did not at any time spend one dime on advertisements or promotions. Our growth was entirely dependent on our desire to engage personally with every one who walked through our doors whether they were simply browsing or actually intending to buy a certain product.
The Bottom Line To Customer SatisfactionHere is what I believe to be the bottom line in relation to customer satisfaction: Real people engaging in real conversations based on a real desire to serve people rather than the bottom line.
Here are six really good reasons why customer satisfaction is vital for your business success:
- It clearly communicates whether customers will buy from you again.
- It sets you apart from other businesses.
- It reduces the number of customers taking their business elsewhere.
- It enhances the opportunity to turn a one-time visit into a lifetime customer.
- It increases word of mouth referrals.
- It reduces expenditures on finding new customers.
Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:"Biggest question: Isn't it really 'customer helping' rather than customer service? And wouldn't you deliver better service if you thought of it that way?" Jeffrey Gitomer
"Our greatest asset is the customer! Treat each customer as if they are the only one!" Laurice Leitao
"Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction…you must improve." Horst Schulz
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