The importance of customer satisfaction and support is increasingly becoming a vital business issue as organization realize the benefits of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for providing effective customer service. Professionals working within customer focused business or those running call centers or help desks, need to keep informed about the latest customer satisfaction techniques for running a valuable customer service function. From small customer service departments to large call centers, the importance of developing a valued relationship with customers using CRM is essential to support customer and long-term business growth.
Benefits of Customer Satisfaction
What Do Customers Want?
Before we begin to create tools to measure the level of satisfaction, it is important to develop a clear understanding of what exactly the customer wants. We need to know what our customers expect from the products and services we provide.
Customer expectations have two types –
Expressed: Customer Expectations are those requirements that are written down n the contract and agreed upon by both parties for example, product specifications and delivery requirements. Supplier’s performance against these requirements is most of the items directly measurable.
Implied: Customer Expectations are not written or spoken but are the ones the customer would ‘expect’ the supplier to meet nevertheless.
For example, a customer would expect the service representative who calls on him to be knowledgeable and competent to solve a problem on the spot.
There are many reasons why customer expectations are likely to change overtime. Process improvements, advent of new technology, changes in customer’s priorities, improved quality of service provided by competitors are just a few examples.
Customer Satisfaction Dimension
Customer Satisfaction is measured across various parameters. There are parameters and sub parameters (some enumerated below).
- Level of product Knowledge with Sales staff
- Timeliness and quality of response to customer queries on product.
- Level of understanding of customer’s needs and unique perspective.
- Availability and quality of brochures, sales material.
- Presentation, communication and mannerism of sales person.
- Project of honesty and trustworthiness.
Product Delivery Experience
- Timeliness of product delivery
- Sharing of status while work-in-progress
- Quality and sophistication of delivery/product pack
- Behavior and mannerism of delivery staff.
- Level of congruence between what was sold and what was delivered.
- Level of product quality vis-à-vis expectation.
- Level of need fulfillment vis-à-vis expected
- Timeliness of product servicing
- Quality of product servicing
- Cost of product servicing
- Mannerism and conduct of servicing staff
- Frequency and quality of contact
- Knowledge of company products and customer opportunities
- Conduct and Communication of relationship person.
Complaint resolution / Grievance Handling
- Timeliness of complaint resolution
- Quality of complaint resolution
- Level of iterations till the complaint was resolved.
- Empathy of the customer servicing staff
- Knowledge of customer servicing staff
- Communication quality and information for collection
- Conduct and communication of collection staff
- Channel and Ease of giving payments.
Defining Service Quality and Satisfaction
The two separate terms “satisfaction” and “quality” are difficult to define in general, and press writers tend to use those terms interchangeably. However, the more precise meanings and measurement of the two concepts were developed after a considerable debate. Although these two consensuses share something in common, the fundamental causes and outcomes differ from one another. While satisfaction is a wide and broad concept in general, service quality has specific attributes of the service itself. As shown below in Figure 1, service quality is a reflection of the customer’s perception of reliability, assurance, responsiveness, empathy and tangibles. Whereas customer satisfaction is more inclusive and perceived according to service quality, product quality, price, situational factors and personal factors. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler, 2009, 103.)
Service Quality Dimension (SERVQUAL)
The SERVQUAL model is a widely accepted model of determining and expressing the customer satisfaction. It was first published in 1988 and has undergone improvements and revisions since than. As it is east to understand and to identify the customer satisfaction level this model is selected to use in the report. There are five major those entirely represent the service quality. These are explained below:
Tangibles: Representing the Service Physically
Tangibles are defined as the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communications materials. Customers, particularly new customers, use these physical representations or images to assess quality. Service companies can make good use of tangible factors to improve their image, provide continuity, and indicate quality to customers, or even combine them with another element to create a service quality strategy. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 115)
Reliability: Delivering on Promises
Reliability is defined as the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. More specifically, it means that the company deliverers service provision, problem resolution, and pricing according to their promises. In this way, firms can keep their customers loyal to them. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 113.)
Responsiveness: Being Willing to Help
Responsiveness is the willingness to help customers and to provide prompt service. The focus is weighted on how quickly and attentively companies are able to deal with customer requests, questions, complaints, and problems. Companies must have customer’s point of view to deliver service and handle requests in order to excel on this dimension. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 114.)
Assurance: Inspiring Trust and Confidence
Assurance is the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence. For high-risk service such as banking, insurance, medical, brokerage, and legal services, this aspect tends to be particularly significant. Companies need to gain trust and confidence in order to create trusting relationships with their customers. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 114.)
Empathy: Treating Customers as Individuals
Empathy is the provision of caring individualized attention to customers. The core idea is to prove customers that they are cared and understood through personalized or customized service, as they are special and important for firms. Small firms are often able to reflect their personal knowledge of customer requirements and preferences and build relationships with their customers so that small firms tend to be more advantageous when competing with larger firms in this dimension. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 114-115.)
This attribute demands customization service process. Aspects like individual attention, understanding customer’s needs and interests were categorized in this section.
All of those elements are equally important in order to obtain one hundred percent of quality and have different influence on the final service quality. Customers use those five dimensions to organize information about service quality in their minds. Depending on a situation, sometimes all the dimensions are used, and at other times not. Although this model is found relevant for a variety of service business and therefore widely used, some researchers suggest that cross-cultural aspect is missing on those dimensions. Individuals from different backgrounds seek different experiences from the same set of service and also perceive actual experiences differently. This has to be taken into account when applying these dimensions. (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2009, 112.)