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One of the most essential strategic goals of business organizations in the current dynamic business environment is to achieve customer satisfaction. Nimako and Mensah (2014) suggests that a satisfied customer is likely to return; and improved customer experience leads to customer loyalty, greater value, and increased competitive advantage. In marketing, customer satisfaction refers to the measure of the degree to which a business has attained or surpassed the customers’ expectations. The concept is used by firms to determine the number or percentage of customers who have reported service experiences that exceed the expected levels of satisfaction. On the other hand, customer dissatisfaction occurs when the services offered by the organization do not meet the customers’ anticipation. Business firms operating in the service industry including hospitality and ICT usually use customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction as key performance indicator to show the effectiveness of customer experience in the organization. In a competitive business environment where firms operate in a competitive market structure, service experience and customer satisfaction are essential determinants of success and sustainability. However, some businesses may face a challenge of trying to identify the sources of satisfaction or dissatisfaction among customers. This report will enumerate and analyze some of the sources of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction in service experience.
To establish the sources of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, a business organization should first measure the level of such performance indicators based on customer experiences in the organization. The number customers’ complaints versus compliments indicate whether the clients are satisfied or dissatisfied (Robbins and Judge, 2017). Furthermore, a business may monitor and assess the behaviors of customers, their comments, and return rates to establish whether the company has achieved their expectations of service experience or not.
The customer feedback can be obtained through surveys such as questionnaires or interviews. Karatepe and Avci (2002) suggest three tools of understanding customers’ service experience: online or email services, face-to-face interviews, and telephone interviews. Companies may request customers to fill their survey questionnaires online or send emails. The advantage of this methods is that it is cost-effective and easy to administer. However, it usually attracts low response rates. The face-to-face interviews are suitable for key customers who are concentrated in a specific geographical location, e.g. supermarket customers in a residential area. The method is advantageous because it enhances strong personal relationship between the company and the customers, and it enables the firm to ask as many questions as possible. However, it is quite an expensive exercise. Some companies use telephone to conduct surveys either by call or text messaging.
Marketing experts use the data collected through surveys to measure customer satisfaction in various ways. For example, satisfaction and dissatisfaction may be measured using scale rating or verbal descriptions. Usually, customers may demonstrate satisfaction by returning to buy the same product or service. However, a survey compels the customers to rate the company using terminologies such as satisfied, extremely satisfied, dissatisfied, fair, undecided, often, never, etc. The customers may also be required to rate the company’s services on a scale of 0-10; and scores of 6 and above will show a high customer satisfaction. Satisfaction scores below 5 indicate that the business still needs to improve its services to satisfy its customers. Likert scale is used to measure customer satisfaction by evaluating the customers’ statements about the consumers’ perceptions and expectations of the services provided by the company (Ting, 2004). From the descriptive survey, the business can identify weak and strong areas. Several studies have been carried out to measure customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction in different sectors, leading to the identification of the essential drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
One of the critical factors that influence customer satisfaction is service quality. According to (Gil et al, 2008), dealing with service quality remains to be the most significant challenge in the service sector. Numerous studies suggest that most customers have high expectation of service quality. Therefore, a company that meets customers’ expectation of good quality is highly likely to achieve customer satisfaction. Service quality relates to various dimensions of an organization’s business, including facilities and customers’ personal experiences, imaginations, perceptions, emotions, and attitudes.
There are various dimensions of service quality which can individually be considered as sources of customer satisfaction. The technical or external dimension of service quality includes the products that the customer receives from the business, including how the need of or problem of the client is solved, the systems used, and the procedures followed (Matzler et al, 2006). For example, a customer of an accounting firm perceives the quality of a service rendered based on the accounting competencies and effects of the accounting processes on the customer’s books of accounts and financial statements.
The functional dimension of service quality relates to the effectiveness of the process used by the firm to deliver the services. The functional sources of customer satisfaction include the personal presentation of staff, customer service quality, attitudes of employees towards customers, and the responsiveness and sensitivity of the company to the needs of the customers. Furthermore, the show of respect and concern among customers may enhance higher perceived quality and customer satisfaction. For instance, hospitality companies may satisfy customers through simple words such as ‘thank you’ or simple actions such as carrying luggage for the customer to their rooms, and responding promptly to their queries and complaints. Caceres and Paparoidamis (2007) argue that customers form opinion about the quality of services based on the method of service delivery, the seller’s behavior, and all aspects that affect how the clients’ needs are met. Almsalam (2014) also argues that businesses focus on high quality services to achieve differentiation and promote strong customer relationship.
Effective communication styles and personal relationships with customers also influence customer satisfaction. Clients in the service industry often evaluate service experience based on their interactions with customer service staff. The first impression created by the receptionist or customer service staff may influence customer satisfaction. Oftentimes, a good personal relationship between the buyer and the seller results in higher intention to buy; leading to positive customer experience and increased customer satisfaction (Caceres and Paparoidamis, 2007). Therefore, an organization that trains its employees to promote constructive interactions at the workplace is likely to satisfy its customers.
Recent research has also shown that emotions influence satisfaction. Customers often go to a shop or office expecting good services; but when they experience negative emotions they develop negative perception of the service quality. According to Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė (2012), emotions at different stages of the buying cycle affect the levels of customer satisfaction and long-term consumer behavior. Nonetheless, strong emotional bonding between the buyer and the seller increases the chances of future purchase intentions. Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė (2012) also argue that service quality precedes customer satisfaction; and emotional appeal is an important component of the satisfaction construct. Therefore, emotions is one of the most important drivers of effective customer satisfaction.
Almsalam (2014) suggests that the most important sources of customer satisfaction are perceived service quality and customer expectations. This perspective supports the findings of Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė (2012). Customer expectation is the pre-consumption beliefs of consumers about particular products or services. The availability of information about the product or service affects the customer’s expectation. Some of the sources of information about goods and services include: prior experience with the brand or company, referrals through word of mouth, price, media advertisements, expert opinion, publicity, and personal selling.
The expectation of the customer based on the available information at the pre-purchase stage influences the buying decision. The attitudes of customer service staff, behaviors of other customers, and the quality of equipment affect the attitudes and buying behaviors of consumers during the purchase and consumption stages. During the post-purchase stage, the consumers form anticipations based on the evaluation of the overall customer satisfaction (Jamal and Naser, 2002). Therefore, customers’ beliefs about service quality are affected by various factors across the entire buying cycle. Consequently, the customers’ expectations influence customer satisfactions. Expectations form the basis on which customers make judgements about satisfaction. The consumer will not be satisfied if the services delivered do not meet his or her anticipations. Nevertheless, the buyer’s expectation reflects his or her desired level of service quality; hence customer expectation is positively related to customer satisfaction.
A study on the hospitality industry shows that facilities and technology improve customer satisfaction by making guests happy (Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė, 2012). For example, several hotels across the world have connected their accommodation and conference rooms with Wi-Fi and internet networks to enable customers to access internet services from their rooms. Business travelers and tourists always want to communicate with their families, friends and workmates from foreign countries. The provision of such services improves customers’ perception and attitudes towards the company, leading to increased satisfaction.
Service industries such as airlines and beverage companies should also provide good facilities that exceed customers’ expectations to satisfy customers. For example, in a hotel room one would expect to find good lighting systems, mobile phone charging systems, quality TV with several channels, easy access to drinks, sufficient ventilation, and other modest amenities that will make them comfortable (Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė, 2012). Nonetheless, comfortable seats and adequate space are essential sources of satisfaction among airline passengers. Travelers may also expect good food, drinks, and entertainment to keep them happy throughout their journey. In the beverage industry, customers have high expectations of tasty and elegant drinks. Restaurants may also satisfy their customers through reduced queues, effective customer services, and quick services. In this regard, the facilities and services offered by the company affect the satisfaction of customers with service experience.
Comfort and convenience also play a significant role in promoting customer satisfaction. Business organizations in the service industry should always provide comfortable and convenient services to enhance good customer experience. For example, comfort is a significant factor affecting the attitudes and perceptions of customers in restaurants. People always expect to dine in a comfortable environment to enjoy the meal and interact with their families and friends. Therefore, a company with a quiet and serene environment is likely to meet the customers’ expectations, leading to increased customer satisfaction and improved chances of repeat purchases. Furthermore, hospitality and airline service providers may provide comfortable chairs and chairs, as well as clean toilets to enhance comfort and convenience. Such factors have a significant impact on customer satisfaction because they influence customers’ perception and expectations.
There are also certain aspects of customer experience in the external environment that lead to customer satisfaction in various services industries. For example, the attributes of tourist destinations and hotels may affect the customers’ perception of the destination (Matzler et al, 2006). Such factors include: cleanliness and hygiene, accessibility, cost, peace, and attractiveness of nature. Customers become happy in a quiet, peaceful, and pleasant environment. Furthermore, the provision of extra services such as sports, gym, and swimming pools improve the satisfaction; but their absence may not necessarily lead to customer dissatisfaction. With increasing health-consciousness across the world, customers continue to expect high levels of hygiene and cleanliness from service providers. Nonetheless, easy access to services improves customer experience. Therefore, service companies should focus on such critical attributes to promote customer satisfaction with service experience.
Lepkova and Žukaitė-Jefimovienė (2012) suggest that the major cause of customer dissatisfaction is the difference between subjective and objective dimensions of quality. The failure of a company to match its physical features and services with the needs of customers leads to negative perception of quality among customers. Consequently, the company fails to meet the needs of customers, causing customer dissatisfaction. Essentially, the services that do not reflect the customers’ attitudes, emotions and perceptions result in poor service quality and low customer satisfaction. Filip (2013) suggests that clients are dissatisfied if the service delivery does not meet their expectations.
Based on Herzberg’s two-factor theory of motivation, people are often motivated by hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors include salaries, physical working conditions, company regulations, and status (Lussier and Hendon, 2013). These factors do not lead to satisfaction, but if they are absent, they lead to dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, satisfaction is not the opposite of dissatisfaction (Lussier and Hendon, 2013). The presence of certain factors may lead to customer satisfaction, but their absence do not necessarily cause dissatisfaction. Therefore, there are external factors that must be provided to pacify customers and eliminate dissatisfaction. In this regard, the factors than increase consumers’ complaints make them dissatisfied. For example, high price is a good source of dissatisfaction. Although the customer’s expectations in terms of quality is met, the high prices may increase dissatisfaction.
The customer complaining behavior partly explains the sources of customer dissatisfaction. According to Filip (2013), complaint management is an appropriate approach to identifying and addressing the sources of dissatisfaction among consumers. In this regard, complaining customers tend to express their dissatisfaction with the company. A consumer may responds to defects in product quality, errors in service delivery, or unpleasant experiences with customer service staff.
One of the things that buyers complain about is the delay of service delivery. For instance, a company that offers construction services may delay to complete the construction of a building structure, leading to the dissatisfaction of the client. Customers often expect firms to provide the best quality of services at the right time. The business may cause inconveniences to the customer if it fails to meet deadlines. For example, if a traveller from New York books a flight to attend a meeting in London, he or she does not expect the airline company to delay his journey. If the delay happens, the potential passenger may miss the meeting; hence he or she becomes unhappy and dissatisfied. Accordingly, he or she may not use the company’s services again. However, the manner in which the company will handle the delay will determine whether the customer returns or not.
Lack of effective communication may cause or increase dissatisfaction. In the example of a delayed flight from New York, the company may contact the customer and convince him or her that the delay was unavoidable. Some companies may refund the customer and offer a free flight. Such gesture demonstrates responsiveness and commitment to the needs of the customer. However, poor communication will leave the customer more unhappy and dissatisfied (Gil et al, 2008). For example, the company may not provide details about the failure, and simply feel sorry about the situation without any indication of commitment to avoid such delays in future. Inadequate communication leads to negative perception of customers who may think that their concerns are not considered in the company’s decisions. Therefore, the consumers may feel less important and dissatisfied.
Another important reason why customers complain is poor customer service and rude staff attitude. Untrained or improperly trained members of staff may offer substandard services or respond rudely to customers’ requests. Furthermore, customer service representatives who take long to address customers’ needs cause customer dissatisfaction. Inappropriate customer service approaches tend to irritate and dissatisfy customers’ service experience (Gil et al, 2008). If customers wait for a long time to get replies to their emails and social media messages, they become unhappy with the service experience. As a result, consumers will complain either to staff or through social media and mass media platforms. Furthermore, failure to listen to customers may create a poor image that creates negative attitudes towards the company. The company’s failure to respond to complaints and compliments indicate that the firm does not care about the customers.
Hidden costs and information may also lead to customer dissatisfaction. Customers often expect fair treatment from the company. However, if the business is not sincere about its prices and product quality, the customer feels betrayed and dissatisfied. For example, false statements and misrepresentation through advertisements may mislead customers, leading to dissatisfaction. A company that creates an impression of dishonesty in its trade may create a poor relationship with customers, leading to poor service experience throughout the buying cycle.
Customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction are essential elements of business strategy that every company must address adequately to achieve competitive advantage and long term sustainability in the service sector. Therefore, organizations must identify issues that cause customer satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction. Factors that make customers happy, pleased, and comfortable always lead to satisfaction. Such factors include: improved service quality, customer expectations, good facilities, effective customer service, good communication, emotional bonding, strong customer relationships, responsiveness and sensitivity to customer needs, comfort and convenience, and prompt service delivery. On the other hand, customer dissatisfaction is caused by negative factors such as failure to listen to customers, delayed response to customers’ messages, poor conversations with customer service staff, and hidden information and costs. Lack of communication also creates dissatisfaction because customers expect to be informed on time about the company’s decisions that may affect the business. Therefore, factors that meet the customers’ quality expectations and perceptions increase satisfaction; while issues that make them unhappy and irritated lead to dissatisfaction with service experience.
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