Four levels of customer satisfaction

I decided to revisit the updated edition of First, break all the rules from the good folks at Gallup a couple of weeks back in preparation for a workshop I’ll be attending next week (tomorrow through Friday). And it’s been a revelatory experience — I caught on to some of the concepts that I had either missed or was ignorant about when I read the first edition of the book close to a decade ago.

I guess that’s another reason why you should reread your favorite books often. Particularly if it has been revised and updated. I started that practice early last year for a good measure. Read a dozen books to gain in-depth insights on stuff I would’ve glazed over previously.

Nonetheless, I bumped into Gallup’s Levels of Customer Satisfaction. (Don’t Google it yet, there are different versions of the same concept but nothing related to what I’m talking about here. Perhaps this is just for the book. And for some reason, it’s a small section of a massive chapter that talks about defining the right outcomes.) I found it fascinating because it’s so relevant for businesses, big or small.

Level 1 – Accuracy: That’s the level every business starts off with because it’s the least the customer would expect. I don’t know of any business that’s built on lies and/or inaccuracies — even the cartels understand this concept! Someone calls you up for information fully expecting that you are going to give them what they want, right? Think of the last time you placed an order online for something you really want and need only to receive a different article altogether. How did you feel? And most importantly, what was the first thought on your mind?

Level 2 – Availability: There’s no point in being a business when you’re just not available for your customers or prospects. I’ve got a perfect example — the AirBnB I’m staying at is a simple Bed and Bathroom (yeah, no breakfast) setup. There’s no Wi-Fi, no cellular network, and no drinking water. I am do take care of my own arrangements. And guess, what, I’ll be happy to.

But I can’t do anything about the Wi-Fi or cellular network bit. Not having either of them makes me feel like I’m living in a black hole of sorts. The worst part is I can’t even reach out to my host. I will have to literally walk outside the complex just to make a call. And when I did, she didn’t pick up. I tried sending a bunch of text messages but those haven’t been read yet. Would I be bringing my business here again? You know the answer.

Since I manage an agency business, I know how important it is to be available. The clients actually rely on you for deliverables. Being unavailable is like playing with fire. It will hurt your business.

Level 3 – Partnership: This is where the magic happens. For most businesses at least. They work with their customers like a hand-in-glove to collaborate on mission-critical projects where stakes are really high. A win is a win for both parties. You can sense trust plays a major factor in the success of any partnership.

Getting to Level 3 isn’t easy. You have to take care of the basics first — Levels 1 and 2. They’re non-negotiables for you to get to Level 3. In other words, if you don’t want to be seen as a mere vendor you can’t afford but be accurate and available at all times. Yes, it’s stressful at times but the price you pay is worth the status you achieve as a trusted partner.

Level 4 – Advice: This is the highest level of customer satisfaction. Reaching this level requires you to play at Level 3 (for which Levels 1 and 2 are a given) consistently for a good amount of time. Being a trusted advisor will have you working very closely with the clients as they will be relying on your expertise.

Here’s what’s ironical — most businesses never get to Level 4, despite their best intentions to serve as a trusted advisor to their clients. What gives? Their unwillingness to commit to the levels. That said, some of them do end up running a profitable business totally ignoring these levels but they would never be able to partner with iconic brands who have a need to collaborate with vendors not just for their services but their expertise.

I believe this is a great reference point for any business that wants to focus on improving customer satisfaction, which will indirectly affect their bottom line.

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