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The Virtuous Cycle Toward
Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction (CS) is not just about smiles and kindness.
Sometimes, it can be shown through meticulous service, competitive technology,
or via the will to mutually benefit. The important thing is that there are always people involved in every service.
Now let's start by looking at the CS that we should all be aware of.
Article: Editor’s Office


Changes in Consumer Awareness Ushering in a New Era of Customer Satisfaction


Due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, we are faced with big changes in customer needs and expectations. However, as the saying goes, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity,” and the demand for delivery service for food materials is booming. The market in which agricultural, fishery, and livestock producers deliver their products directly to the customers is growing rapidly. They are doing their best to deliver faster, safer, and fresher products to the consumers, who are sharing their reviews of the service they receive.

An interesting fact is that now smarter consumers do not just give reviews on the product itself. Sometimes, they point out the problems of the delivery company rather than the production company, or at other times they praise impressive service. Companies that know this give feedback by engaging in the services of the delivery companies, or inform the consumers of the strong partnership.

The relationship between the producer and consumer is business-to-consumer (B2C). And the relationship between the producer and the delivery service is business-to-business (B2B). In other words, the B2B and B2C markets are not separate, but rather are interconnected. In this way, consumers now express their satisfaction with all the factors, from the choice of the product through all the processes until seeing the
results they receive. Accordingly, many companies are starting to value the B2B relations they have in these processes. While B2C was a relationship through which businesses cared about consumers, B2B is a relationship in which companies having businesses with each other care about each other.

Therefore, there are clear differences in customer satisfaction between B2C and B2B. The biggest difference is that the key to customer satisfaction in B2B is in the relationship. In B2C, emotional attributes are emphasized, and customers’ choices change according to the direction or the image of the company. On the other hand, transactions in B2B are more focused on performance and profit, which is not something that one person who is in charge of the transactions can control. It is connected to the support at the company level and interactions in different stages of each process. Therefore, customer satisfaction can only be achieved when all the departments involved cooperate and makes joint efforts.

Corporate success and partnership that can be achieved by customer satisfaction

Marketing guru, Theodore Levitt once remarked, “There is no such thing as a service industry. There are only industries whose service components are greater or less than those of the other industries.” In an analysis by Harvard Business School for 100 successful companies, they identified a common nine-step process: “inter-employee service - internal customer satisfaction - satisfaction with company - long-term employment - productivity improvement - customer-service improvement - customer satisfaction - customer loyalty - company profit.”

To summarize, all industries are providing services; and for the success of the company, customer satisfaction, whether internal or external, must come first. Nowadays, customer satisfaction is a value that must be recognized for the survival of the company.

How, then, can this important customer satisfaction be achieved? To grasp this, it is important to understand what value elements customers consider important. You should know this in order to work effectively. Furthermore, you should set specific goals, such as what kinds of services will be provided, instead of an ambiguous slogan such as customer delight, for the employees to understand and put into practice.


As an example, Four Seasons Hotel trained its staff by setting a specific goal of “the easiest check-in,” and was able to halve the customer-dissatisfaction level within a year. Guests who have stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel for five or more times can receive their room keys as soon as they get out of the car, which is not an easy service-level to achieve. To do this, the exact number of previous visits and the license plate number must be known beforehand, and in case the guest arrives in a taxi, they need to know their face. Above all, this is possible only when the employees keep this in mind.

There is one more thing that we should not forget. Even if such a level of service leads to customer satisfaction on one occasion, there is no guarantee that the same service will provide the same level of satisfaction the next time. It is because a good service that has already been experienced raises future expectations. Therefore, maintaining the good service is essential, and you must also always strive to identify new value elements of customers for better service.

The same applies to B2B relationships. However, as mentioned earlier, you should focus on relationships based on performance and profits for customer satisfaction in B2B. A good example of this practice is BASF, a multinational chemical company established in 1865. The company provides customized solutions by categorizing customers based on the degree of relationship expected of them. In particular, they try to pursue a more cooperative partnership for innovation of processes with companies they feel they have deeper relationships with.

BASF, which has Renault Automobile Group as its customer, was responsible for supplying paint to the Renault plant in Slovenia. In addition to sales, they were directly involved in the coating work at the factory, and also responsible for logistics processes and painting quality control. This was not only to provide friendly services as a bonus. Following these procedures reduced paint consumption by 30% and solvent consumption by 63%, resulting in improved productivity and reduced waste, and also increased customer efficiency. As a result, the two companies formed a win-win relationship full of trust, and it was only natural that the relationship lasted.


Pride of internal customers that brings satisfaction to external customers


There is something that is easy to overlook when it comes to customer satisfaction, and that is increasing the level of customer satisfaction. If you look closely into cases where companies fail even when they provide high-quality services that customers expect based on competitive technologies or productivity, it is often the case that their internal customer service failed. Internal customers are the employees, and we must not forget that there are always people involved in services.

Internal customer satisfaction can be achieved when you treat them the way you would with external customers.

This is because dissatisfied employees can get the word out by devaluing their services, as credible grounds, weakening cooperation by worsening the organizational atmosphere, and ultimately incurring additional cost and time by changing jobs.

In order to ensure internal customer satisfaction, it is most important to raise the employees’ self-esteem, and one of the many ways to this is the authority at the worksite. When an employee who is responding to a customer’s complaint does not have the authority and can only give the answer after several procedures, the customer will only become more dissatisfied. In addition, a company that emphasizes the importance of service to external customers should extend its services to internal customers as well. Otherwise, the employees will be dissatisfied with the company that considers them in a lower position than their customers, and this will create a vicious cycle of customer dissatisfaction with the lack of sincerity.

While many companies are emphasizing customer satisfaction, they often miss the complex process required to achieve it. Although strategies may be created by the company, it is the employees that practice them. And it should not be forgotten that external customer satisfaction is achieved through internal customer satisfaction. CS of companies should therefore be based on the fact that most of the successful companies value customer satisfaction above all, and that all industries are made up of services, and that customers are everywhere.

 



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