Applying a back-to-basics approach to delivering customer satisfaction

5th Jan 2015

There is nothing new in the principles of business, the sole purpose of which is to make money in the form of profit. This basic process of business can still be seen in the markets of the Middle East and North Africa where buyers and sellers haggle over the price of goods until agreement, a deal is struck and both buyer and seller are satisfied with the result.

Over time and especially over the past hundred years, the process of making business transactions has become more complicated, however, the underlying principles still remain the same. Customers provide income on the completion of the sale of goods or services that satisfy their requirements.

While getting the sale is the ultimate act which provides the income, the sale itself is not synonymous with customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the primary necessity as it encourages repeat sales, and customer retention.

Online customers

When purchasers initially decide they want something, they then seek to find their requirement from a shop or website, or in the case of business to business actions, from a supplier. As potential purchasers, they have made a decision to buy, provided that they find a suitable product or service that fulfills their requirements. Satisfying the customer and completing the sale satisfactorily depends on the suitability of the product package and the manner in which it is presented to them as the solution to their problem.

When making a purchase through a website, the purchaser has already made a decision to buy a product that meets their requirements. If the website is easy to navigate, and the process of purchase easy to effect, then the sale usually completes without difficultly.

If, on the other hand, the website proves difficult for the customer to navigate so that the order process is complicated and protracted, the customer may easily be lost and the order taken elsewhere. It is important, therefore, that websites should provide sufficient information to the would-be buyer, to enable them to decide to order the product, and then to make ordering a quick and easy process to their satisfaction.

Bricks-and-mortar interactions

Similarly, in most cases, when potential customers enter a shop, they do so with the intention of looking for something that they require or desire, so they already have the inclination to purchase. Many shops are now self-service, but in those shops that rely on personal service, it is the sales staffs that help the customer find and select the solution to their requirement and then close the sale. Frequently, it is the way the sales personnel interact with customers that influences customer satisfaction to complete the transaction, and the opportunity of repeat sales.

The customer’s desire must be serviced by the development and production of products which are priced at a level that the customer is prepared to pay. Social media, advertising and publicity all assist in creating awareness, interest and possibly desire for a product with a potential buyer, but only the action of closing the sale actually brings in the money, However, until the product or service has been delivered to the customer to their satisfaction, the transaction is not complete.

Transactions don't always represent success 

Getting the sale and the payment may be a straightforward process, which secures immediate income for the short term, but if customers are not satisfied with the delivery, specification, payment process, product support and general attitude of the supplier, a hard-won customer may be lost to future repeat sales. A satisfied customer is a good ambassador for any supplier, but an unsatisfied customer is not only lost, but their communicated experience can damage a supplier’s reputation and image.

The commercial manager responsible for getting and maintaining profitable income, needs to ensure that the relationship between a supplier and its customers is the principle influencer of the customer’s satisfaction, loyalty and repeat business. While obtaining sales income is a prime objective of the sales team, customer satisfaction should be at the centre of all those other activities that support the customer, such as production, service support, distribution, payment and credit control. This requires the effective management of all those activities which directly and indirectly effect customer relations.

A sale is not synonymous with customer satisfaction. Concentration on achieving sales can bring short-term benefits of income, but only concentration on customer service and satisfaction can bring long-term benefits of customer retention and profitable income for the future.

Nicholas Watkis is the founder of Contract Marketing Service, established in 1981. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a certified management consultant of the Institute of Business Consultancy. 

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