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Marketing, customer satisfaction and loyalty
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Customer satisfaction: issues and challenges in the post-covid era

What are the challenges of customer satisfaction? Can we still build customer loyalty? This is a reasonable question to ask. Indeed, we can observe a return of transactional marketing to the detriment of relational marketing, prevalent since the 90s. With the erasure of human relationships announced by automated stores and Facebook’s metaverses, what will be left in the future to build customer loyalty?

If you only have 30 seconds

The increasing digitalization of our society, accelerated by the Covid crisis, will profoundly impact the management of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Understanding the drivers of customer satisfaction requires going beyond the simple NPS (Net Promoter Score). Online services make the customer journey more complex and multiply the “paths” leading to the purchase. With this in mind, 5 moments in the customer journey must be precisely measured:

  • the moment when the prospect becomes aware of the existence of the product or service
  • the placing of an order
  • the reception (in the case of a product)
  • the first use
  • the first contact with the customer service

Customer service will play an increasingly important role in customer satisfaction. But it will also be made more complex by the diversity of communication channels and the increasing use of written contacts, sources of frustration, and misunderstanding.

Customer satisfaction: what the Covid crisis has changed

With the covid crisis, our behaviors have become even more volatile. We are more and more “digital,” and technology pushes us to less human contact. The Covid crisis has increased the use of digital and fragmented human contact even more.

When it comes to products, speed is of the essence. This research on 213,000 online transactions shows, for example, that shortening the delivery time by one day increases the turnover by 0.73% and the profit by 2%.

Facebook’s metaverses announce an even less “human” world where “physical” customer service will become less critical. We can already see that technologies that enable self-service (Amazon Go, Just Walk Out technology) directly influence customer satisfaction and, in turn, loyalty. Machine-human interfaces also have a measurable impact on customer satisfaction, which this research assesses at 12.7%. Another research, realized during the Covid crisis in Italy, proves that the complexity of the online purchase decreases the satisfaction rate and the re-purchase.

It follows that 3 main areas are still essential to satisfy its customers:

  • the digital interfaces where customer expectations are formed
  • delivery, which is the moment of truth when everything can change
  • customer service, which is more important than ever, but increasingly remote to provide advice and manage problems

Some advice for measuring customer satisfaction

  • Map the customer journey in detail to identify key moments that can change the customer’s expectations or appreciation of the product/service
  • Use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) but do not neglect more detailed measurement tools
  • Do not overwhelm the customer with customer satisfaction questionnaires
  • Pay special attention to the quality of the contacts with customers (emails, chats) to avoid unhappy reactions.

Mapping the customer journey: an essential step

The customer journey has never been so complex, so polymorphic. There are, therefore, countless influences that can modify the expectations (and consequently the satisfaction) of the consumer.

Today, satisfaction research has become a matter for micro-specialists. Whereas 20 years ago, it was possible to realize using global analyses, today it is time to analyze specific factors in micro-contexts.

Mapping the customer journey in detail means laying the foundations for understanding the decisive moments that influence satisfaction. The 3 questions that this mapping must answer are the following:

  • where are customer expectations formed?
  • at what point is the service or product “assessed” by the customer and compared to his expectations?
  • how is the post-purchase process managed, and in particular, how is customer loyalty managed?

The challenges of remote customer service

The channels to complain have never been so numerous. Faced with the inflation of the number of social networks, companies are reduced to leaving it to robots (chatbots) to manage the first contact with customers.

This research from 2021 shows, for example, that handling complaints on social networks has adverse effects on the company.

As written contacts become the norm (email, chats), mastering the subtleties of language is imperative for customer service. You have to convey complex messages in a minimum of sign language without ” chaffing ” the customer. In this article, I had already shown all the dangers of written communication in complaint management. This research from 2021 adds another layer by studying the influence of the respect perceived by the customer on his satisfaction.

Is it still possible to measure customer satisfaction in a reliable way?

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measurement tool that is no longer disputed. It is certainly still possible to measure customer satisfaction comprehensively. However, it’s very general character makes it less precise. A more “surgical” measurement of customer satisfaction requires asking specific questions about factors that play a role at different customer journey stages.

Customer journey mapping is a valuable tool in this respect. It allows you to identify the key moments that can “tip” satisfaction. Here are some of those moments:

  • Awareness: the moment when the prospect becomes aware of the existence of the product or service and forms expectations about it
  • The placing of an order
  • The reception
  • The first use: the first use of the product or the first implementation of the service
  • The first contact with the customer service

Each key moment has its own specific antecedents of satisfaction. Identifying them correctly is a prerequisite to be able to act concretely on the satisfaction of your prospects and customers. The first moment (“getting acquainted”) is particularly important in this respect because it determines your customers’ expectations, which must be neither excessive (so as not to disappoint them later) nor too low (so as not to drive them away).






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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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