Consumer satisfaction is a measure of the quality of your products and services. There are many facets to, and stages of, the process of consumption. From browsing your webpage or interacting with sales staff in a physical store, to buying the product, and subsequently dealing with any maintenance problems that might crop up, there are multiple points at which a customer’s interaction with a brand can go bad. It is essential for companies to measure, register, and address customer complaints especially if they don’t wish to go out of business! But how do they go about it? How does one gauge customer satisfaction; what does the process entail?
Customer satisfaction is multidimensional
According to one popular definition, customer satisfaction was a reflection of the discrepancy between customer expectations and customer perceptions that their expectations have been met. In other words, my expectation is that the biryani at a famous local restaurant will taste delicious. If the biryani lives up to, or even exceeds my expectations, my customer satisfaction rating would be a 5/5. Anything less than optimum and the score would be lower. In the mid-nineties, an article in a leading business journal challenged this assumption. The authors studied customer satisfaction metrics and compared them to customers’ long-term relationship with the brand. What they found surprise them (and no doubt the audience as well!) They discovered that customer satisfaction, defined as reality living up to and exceeding expectations, was no guarantee of continued customer loyalty. They studied a major American bank’s customer database and examined both account holders who had given the bank positive customer satisfaction ratings, and those who had given it negative customer satisfaction ratings. To their astonishment, they were confronted with this little piece of information: that the same number of customers, from both ends of the score spectrum, closed their bank accounts. In other words, the existing definition of customer happiness or satisfaction was hopelessly narrow. Market analysts have since retooled this definition, and come up with a more varied set of indicators.
Actual experience vs. ideal experience
This comparison can help quantify and capture any excesses. For example, when a customer’s experience of a brand exceeds their expectations, could there be another set of standards that it falls short of? You and your family are driving from Mumbai to Hyderabad to visit relatives. One your way, you stop at a petrol pump to fill up your tank and use the restroom. Once you resume your journey, you discuss the bathrooms and agree that they were cleaner than you expected—in other words, they exceeded your expectations.
Willingness to recommend the brand
It’s one thing to like something, and another thing to evangelise about it. We all know that when we truly love something, we become its de facto ambassadors. If you keep acquiring new customers through word-of-mouth, you can be sure that your brand is able to fulfil this particular dimension of the customer satisfaction experience.
Intention to buy again
The final metric to gauge customer happiness with your services, is to ask them if they would buy your product again. If they would, it’s a good indicator or predictor of their potential loyalty to the brand. These metrics can’t be applied in isolation. It is only when you combine them that you get a nuanced sense of the extent and quality of customer satisfaction with your product and your services.