So, if customer satisfaction results from the relationship of the customer's expectations to the product or service's actual performance, how do you go about influencing these factors? In other words, how do you influence customer satisfaction?
A customer's experience
of a product or service (its actual performance) encompasses the entirety of the product or service's ability to provide utility and satisfy the customer's needs. The factors which predominantly influence utility and need satisfaction are the quality of the actual product (craftsmanship, materials, packaging, ease of use, functionality, etc.) or service (consultation, implementation, costs/benefits, etc.). However, the customer's experience is also affected by the quality of customer service and how a company and its employees conduct themselves - for example, when it comes to warranty cases. The customer's experience of a product or service's actual performance is not limited to a short period of time directly following their purchase; rather, it is reflective of the entire duration of use.
A customer's experience of a product or service is not contained in a vacuum. Their performance expectations
form the standard against which their experiences are measured. Performance expectations differ from person to person, so the requirements for customer satisfaction can only be objectively defined and generalised to a certain extent. There do exist, however, certain common factors which are relevant to most customers' satisfaction.
such as punctuality, reliability, and honesty are also important. These minimum requirements go without saying for the vast majority of customers. If they're lacking, there's no foundation upon which to even build customer satisfaction.
But actually generating customer satisfaction demands that other performance requirements
also be fulfilled. These differ from customer to customer. The most common factors that influence a customer's expectations with regard to a product or service's performance are:
- Advertising promises/product promises
- Sales pitches and consultation sessions
- Product design
- Product and service type
- Previous experiences with the same or similar products or services
- The company or product's public image
- Pricing (policy)
- Recommendations from friends and acquaintances
- Online ratings, reports, customer recommendations, and reviews
- Personal needs
- Emotional state and mood
If the customer's performance requirements are not fulfilled, the result is a dissatisfied customer. And if the requirements are fulfilled, the customer will be moderately satisfied. The product or service will be viewed favourably, but will not be seen as being exceptional, and can therefore be substituted with another product or service. However, if the customer's expectations are exceeded, satisfaction and retention will grow.
Extra services and gifts are the icing on the cake for satisfied customers. Such attractive extras
are not expected by the customer, so they do not negatively impact customer satisfaction if a company or service provider lacks them. But if they're provided, it will create customer enthusiasm, and a company or service provider will be able to position itself favourably over the competition. Reminder: customers are often not willing to make repeat purchases or recommend products and services until the threshold of customer enthusiasm has been crossed.
A customer's value increases accordingly with his or her level of satisfaction — and there's always room for improvement. So, it's important to be able to find out how you can improve from the point of view of the customer, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what growth potentials are waiting to be tapped into.