How to Gain Satisfied Customers

A Guide to Customer Satisfaction

It is not uncommon to see dissatisfied customers dismissed as overreacting or an exception, and then quickly swept under the table. But surely, the aim of every customer experience should be to generate customer satisfaction. A satisfied clientele is not only a nice side effect but also forms the foundation that is necessary for sustainable corporate success.

How to Gain Satisfied Customers

“The product was delivered really quickly and my child is very happy. It is as robust as described and also endures energetic play, therefore I give it top marks.”

“I am really not happy with the T-shirt, the color looks different from the pictures and it does not fit at all.

“In my experience, the quality is fine for the price I paid. If you want something of higher quality, you have to reach deeper into your wallet.”

Three different products, three buyers, three reviews—but they all have one thing in common: these reviews clearly show how satisfied or dissatisfied customers are with the product they purchased and to what extent their expectations were met. Consumer satisfaction seems to be an important point for the question of whether a company and its performance are rated well. Here we would also like to bring up an extremely important topic in everyday business and marketing: customer satisfaction. In many Marketing departments, as even Corporate Management, it is hardly on the radar, in other departments it is hyped like nothing else. Of course, hardly any company will say that customer satisfaction is not important to them. After all, one can easily assume what happens to sales when customers are dissatisfied.

Still, what is the right thing to do? What factors influence consumer satisfaction and what measures can a company take to adapt its performance to its customers’ needs? To find out that, and much more, we are going to follow the trail of customer satisfaction.

What is Customer Satisfaction?

In marketing, customer satisfaction has a very definitive place. Here it is assumed that every customer sets individual expectations, experiences, wishes, and demands for both their purchase and the provider. The sum of these expectations can also be called a target state. This is compared by the consumer with the actual state of affairs, i.e. the company’s comprehensive performance. The comparison can be negative, neutral, or positive. Supposing the actual and target state are close together, the expectations of the customer were probably met and he or she is satisfied. However, if the target and actual state are very far apart, the customer is either disappointed with the product or has a wow experience.

Which of the two variants actually exists depends on whether the actual state far exceeded the target state or fell far short. From the company’s point of view, it is desirable as a minimum to meet customer expectations, and far better to exceed them. However, since the latter is very difficult to achieve, is it not enough to meet customer wishes?

Definition: Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction has its origins in social research. Here it is described using the so-called Confirmation Disconfirmation Model or C-D paradigm. According to this model, customer satisfaction is the “difference between expectations and fulfillment of expectations”. In summary, customer satisfaction is the result of a complex comparison process in which consumers contrast subjective experience with expectations. There are usually four possible outcomes:

  • The performance exceeds expectations: Customers are then very satisfied or even enthusiastic. These customers often become fans of the company and recommend it to friends and acquaintances.
  • The performance meets expectations: If both correspond, customers are generally to be regarded as satisfied. These customers often become existing customers and continue to shop with the company. However, they are neither enthusiastic nor positively surprised and do not necessarily recommend the company to others.
  • The performance does not meet expectations: In this case, customers are not as dissatisfied to the extent that they would turn away from the company, but neither are they satisfied. These customers may buy again from the company but are also quick to turn away as soon as they find a promising alternative.
  • The performance misses expectations by a wide mark: In this case, customers are dissatisfied and often even very annoyed, angry or disappointed. These customers will most likely not buy from the company again and will also tell friends and acquaintances about their bad experiences.

The Goal of Customer Satisfaction

In principle, it is already positive that a customer’s expectations have been met because meeting expectations with reality is a good step on the road towards customer satisfaction. However, the company’s goal is to make customers satisfied enough so that they will shop again and also tell family and friends about their positive experiences. It is precisely at this point that opinions diverge, as it is not clear from the outset whether it is sufficient to meet expectations or whether they need to be exceeded. In the case that everything meets their expectations, the customer is satisfied but the lasting effect is not as strong as when exceeding them. Therefore, every entrepreneur should aim not only to satisfy customers but to delight them, as a high level of customer satisfaction leads to customer retention and customer loyalty.

This effect makes customer satisfaction a key factor for business success, as it can be (together with customer retention) the decisive plus point in the eternal struggle for buyer favor. It is also an indicator of the relationship between the consumer and firm and clearly shows how your performance is perceived. In short, customer satisfaction is clear feedback about all of the company’s offerings and shows how they are perceived and used by buyers.

If buyers are satisfied, they are more likely to buy from the company again. This means satisfied customers become repeat customers. They are demonstrably willing to pay higher prices, buy more products, and shop both more often and spontaneously. At best, these buyers communicate their satisfaction publicly, for example in review portals or in conversations with friends. Review portals in particular are often the first point of contact for customers to research suitable products. In doing so, they rely on credible reviews from other customers. All of this falls under word-of-mouth propaganda, and is authentic, unadulterated advertising for the company—and therefore priceless!

Many Factors Influence Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is based on emotional and cognitive impressions collected throughout the customer journey. These form the expectation of the target state, which is then compared with the actual state. In short: there are many factors that influence customer satisfaction. Here are some basic factors which are important to most customers and should therefore be known in marketing:

1. User-friendliness

The stores should be user-friendly both on and offline. This includes design, music, and customer navigation. Nowadays no-one has the desire and time to dig through an awkward menu with numerous subpages. Decent websites hardly cost huge sums and there are many good examples out there—especially, from the respective market leaders.

2. Product Range

It should be clear what you actually offer, and the offering in your specialist areas should be sufficiently broad. Customers visit shops or online shops with a certain expectation which one should meet. For example, if a sports shop does not sell sports shoes, this is usually totally incomprehensible from the customer’s point of view.

3. Payment Methods

Can you only pay in cash or use your bank cards for a minimum of €10? This is really annoying for customers who spontaneously decide to buy something. There are plenty of alternative businesses that accept both debit cards, credit cards, and cash. Online, it becomes even more critical if, for example, methods such as PayPal, direct debit, instant transfer, or invoice payment are not possible.

4. Shipping and Delivery Options

One point that plays a major role online is the various shipping options. Depending on the item, parcel delivery is either an excellent or a terrible proposition. Therefore, from the customer’s point of view, it is optimal to be able to choose how the package is shipped. In addition, the costs should be communicated openly, either directly on the product pages by means of a further link or as a clear indication in the shopping cart. Customers do not like it at all if the shipping costs are put up again just before the end of the purchase.

5. Service

Service is a really important factor as customers expect friendly and helpful staff, quick and accurate answers, and that employees make the customers feel dealt with and their questions answered. In other words, even an angry critic must be communicated to in a friendly and sympathetic manner. This is an art that needs to be promoted and trained accordingly because customers expect perfect service.

These five factors are essential to meet consumer needs. However, this alone does not achieve a wow effect. This only occurs when these basic expectations are exceeded. And this must be an important endeavor in business and marketing because one thing is quite clear: there will always be a provider that will do better. It is therefore also important to recognize the signs of dissatisfaction.

Four Clear Warning Signs of a Dissatisfied Customer

There are some clear red flags that indicate dissatisfied customers. However, it is important to note that many customers do not actively express their dissatisfaction but rather quietly turn their backs on the company. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the warning signs:

  • Complaints: Dissatisfaction becomes clear when customers turn directly to the company with their criticism. It is important to document complaints in detail with effective complaint management in order to be able to use them positively later.
  • Negative word-of-mouth propaganda: Do you notice negative entries and dissatisfied voices on review portals or social media channels? Here you should immediately pay attention and analyze what exactly triggered this dissatisfied mood.
  • No behavior: If customers no longer react or interact at all, this is also a sign of dissatisfaction. When a customer no longer wants to communicate with the company, it shows that he sees no point in an exchange and is already looking for alternatives.
  • Churn: The clearest feature of dissatisfaction is, understandably, the churn to a competitor. If that happens, the affected customers are usually already lost.

These factors do not necessarily build on each other, because not every customer speaks up before switching to the competition. Frequently, customer loss simply happens without the company noticing the growing dissatisfaction. But that is no reason to bury your head in the sand. Instead, one should implement methods with which one can measure and increase customer satisfaction through customer feedback. But how do you get honest feedback from your own consumers?

Analyzing Customer Satisfaction? Here’s How:

To answer the most important question before you pose it: yes, you can record, analyze, and evaluate customer satisfaction with various methods, and then use the result for your own purposes. At this point, we will just briefly talk about one of the many methods: the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), which, along with CSAT and CES, is one of the most widely used key figures for customer satisfaction. The NPS metric helps to find out which customers are really enthusiastic about the company and which are not. This is achieved by a micro-survey, in which a question is answered on the basis of a scale of numbers. Customers can also enter their own comments in an additional field. Altogether, this results in valuable feedback that can be evaluated with suitable NPS software and thus made usable.

A company prepared for such steps quickly manages to determine comprehensive data, and on the basis of that, can devote attention to the continuous optimization of their offer. We explain other methods of measuring customer satisfaction in our “Guide to the Most Important CX Metrics”.

net-promoter-score-nps

A Guide to the Three Most Important CX Metrics

Learn how to measure customer satisfaction and the pros and cons of the different metrics.






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    Four Tips for Higher Customer Satisfaction

    Once you have tackled the basic factors for customer satisfaction and established them at an initial level, there are other tips to help you build on them. Following them can help you surpass the fulfilled target state expectations with the actual state. Let us show you how this can work:

    1. Focus on existing customers
      In marketing, customers are important. One goes a step further if one attaches importance to your regular customers. Existing customer maintenance can be dealt with, for example, by rewarding purchases, such as discounts for repurchases, after-sales promotions, accounts, bonus cards, and special discounts after the second purchase. In principle, you can provide regular customers with all-around care when you effectively keep and use their data in a GDPR-compliant manner. In this way, contacts can be personalized and showered with special, personalized offers that are directly tailored to the customer’s purchasing behavior. For example, if you buy a pack of diapers, you will likely be interested in a diaper subscription, in which future purchases will be at a lower price.
    2. Aligning quality with customers
      Quality relates not only to the feel or the finish of a product but also according to which standards and what values a company operates. Customers indicate how high the relative quality of a company based on the price of the corresponding product must be. This may sound harsh but is necessary so to meet customer expectations. Achieving this involves seeing things from the customer’s point of view and determining where they expect what. This ranges from the quality of the products to the company philosophy and all the services offered.
    3. Perform regular analyses
      How do you find out what consumers think? Simply by asking them. Regular surveys and the recording of customer satisfaction are mandatory because this is the only way to get a good picture of the actual state of the company over a certain period of time.
    4. Incorporate the results into the optimization
      If analyses take place regularly, the results obtained must ultimately be incorporated into the optimization. If customers give their opinions but see no improvements or receive no other feedback, this leads to frustration and dissatisfaction.

    Customer Satisfaction as the Engine Which Drives Success

    Customer satisfaction must be given the place it deserves in marketing and management. It is a decisive factor for success, especially in today’s digital age, when you can go shopping on your smartphone worldwide with just a few clicks and swipes. In order to ensure long-term customer satisfaction, it is important to know the expectations of your own target group of consumers and to meet, if not exceed them. A lofty goal that can be achieved step by step with a well-balanced campaign. If it succeeds, however, satisfied customers make themselves felt through a stronger bond to the company, greater loyalty, and positive recommendations to family and friends as well as on online portals.

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