- Written by Ronald van Haaften
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My literature research has revealed that customer satisfaction can be defined as an overall customer attitude towards a service provider, or an emotional reaction to the difference between what customers anticipate and what they receive, regarding the fulfilment of some need, goal or desire. Satisfaction represents a veritable key of modelling the acquisition behaviour of the customer, being supported by three groups of variables:
- Cognitive variables, based on the qualitative superiority of the products given by the performance.
- Affective variables, based on the emotions produced to the customers.
- Conative variables, based on the interaction between the provider and the customer in the buying act.
The above groups built up the interface where latent variables, such as corporate image & brand image, customer expectations, perceived product value, perceived service value, perceived value, commitment, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty are developed or even damaged.
Customer satisfaction is addressed as a strategic business development tool. Customer satisfaction does have a positive effect on an organization's profitability, satisfied customers form the foundation of any successful business as customer satisfaction leads to repeat purchase, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth. Satisfied customers are most likely to share their experiences with other people to the order of perhaps five or six people. Equally well, dissatisfied customers are more likely to tell another ten people of their unfortunate experience. Research has demonstrated that even a difference between a totally satisfied customer and a somewhat satisfied customer could lead to an increased revenue contribution of a factor 2.6.
Quite often fundamental causal modelled interdependencies among B2B customer satisfaction processes are lacking. Instantly this makes it difficult to point out the antecedents and relationships of customer satisfaction. Estimation of the extent of customer satisfaction is habitually based on the collective interpretation of customer complaints handled as administrated and individual interpretation of face-2-face meetings between employees and customers. For that reason statistical confidence, accuracy and representativeness easily lack quantitative significance and lead to unreliable quantitative trend analyses.
A lack of customer satisfaction modelling and the nonexistence of a well-defined questionnaire could have a negative effect on the development of sustainable and recurring business. For that reason organisations could definitively take advantage of a proven systematic customer satisfaction process. The challenge for organisations is to implement and secure a standardized customer satisfaction process across their class of markets and geographic markets (countries). Customer satisfaction is addressed as a strategic business development tool. Ultimately it will lead to more loyal customers and more profitable business.
My literature study has delivered an extensive source of customer satisfaction knowledge. I have chosen for a qualitative empirical research study taken from a singular desk research angle which incorporates a study of academic papers, thesis and dissertations in customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction models.
My literature research exposed four general characteristics of customer satisfaction involving features or qualities related to customer satisfaction serving to identify this phenomenon among other customer relationship management propositions;
- Customer satisfaction is a highly variable personal assessment that is greatly influenced by individual expectations based on his/her own information, expectations, direct contact and interaction, and circumstances (time, location and environment).
- Customer satisfaction involves the sum of personal (product and service) experiences driven by its antecedents.
- Customer satisfaction is most often related to purchase, loyalty and retention behaviour with an effect on organizations profitability.
- Customer satisfaction characterizes itself by a high degree of word-of-mouth where satisfied customers are most likely to share their experiences with other people to the order of perhaps five or six people. Equally well, dissatisfied customers are more likely to tell another ten people of their unfortunate experience.
Desk research into the four most known causal customer satisfaction models (SCSB, ACSI, NCSB, ECSI) have shown fundamentally similarities. All models have an academic/scientific, causal construct. The purpose of each customer satisfaction construct is to be a structural equation model for standard measurement for evaluation of customer satisfaction based on a set of latent variables determined by a set of manifest constructs. Each latent variable is measured, the level of each latent variable estimated, the relevant connections between the latent variable established and the magnitude of the connections estimated. The objective of all customer satisfaction models is to provide results that are relevant, reliable, and valid and have predictive financial capability. Nevertheless they have some obvious distinctions in model's structure and variable's selection so that their results cannot be compared with each other. Therefore, adoption of a model needs to be guided by a set of objective selection criteria, so called user requirement specifications.
It is important to realize that many customers will not complain and this will differ from one industry sector to another. In other words, we often are not aware of the extent of satisfaction / dissatisfaction as long as we do not ask. Customer satisfaction research should be done with greatest care. Measuring customer satisfaction must be a continuously, consistent, timely, accurate and reliable process. B2B organisations need to undertake direct action to avoid serious hindrance of their business development over the coming period. B2B organisations will not succeed by simply doing more of what they are doing now; they need to do some things differently. This is where a new corporate customer satisfaction approach becomes a powerful strategic business development tool for B2B organisations.