blog post What is customer satisfaction?

What is customer satisfaction?

“Are you satisfied?” As a customer, you often hear this question, usually after you’ve used a product or service. Companies want to know whether their customers approve of what they’ve experienced, and whether their wishes and requirements have been met. This is because it’s generally felt that satisfied customers will recommend the company, remain loyal to it, and leave positive ratings. But what is the right way to measure customer satisfaction? And how can you tell how satisfied your customers really are?

16. November 2023·4min

The definition of customer satisfaction that’s used in marketing has its origins in social research, according to which customer satisfaction can be measured by comparing the difference between customers’ expectations (target situation) and what the company actually provides (current situation).

So it’s actually relatively straightforward: A company’s products/services can either exceed, fulfil, disappoint, or not fulfil customers’ expectations. Customers are then enthusiastic, satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or (in the worst case scenario) angry. Strictly speaking, satisfaction merely equates to fulfilling what customers require. Depending on how the subjective experience has turned out, it determines whether customers will recommend the company to friends and acquaintances and whether they’re likelier to report positive rather than negative experiences, which generally happens when they’re enthusiastic.

So it’s true that the more satisfied customers are, the greater the likelihood of a positive rating and/or recommendation. Moreover, customer satisfaction is an important reference point if you want to know whether (and how) your offering is fulfilling customers’ requirements. How can companies discover what makes their customers satisfied?

Approaches to measuring satisfaction

In order to measure customer satisfaction, researchers usually resort to so-called feature-oriented measurements where customers are asked to rate specific features of the company’s products/services. This allows one to identify customers’ preferences, but one can also discover those aspects that lead to satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction measurement thus records how customers and users react to what companies are offering them. The verdict is then that their expectations have been fulfilled, disappointed, or exceeded. Depending on the assessment that is made, companies can learn from this feedback and duly adapt their products/services. However, this is often like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted: customer satisfaction surveys are generally retrospective, so they don’t tell you much about the future or whether satisfied customers will return either – they simply tell you whether the product/service was good.

From a customer-centric standpoint, long-term customer satisfaction can nevertheless only be achieved if a company acts in a holistically customer-centered way. This is because long-term satisfaction is determined by all the touchpoints where customers constantly come into contact with the company – even if they don’t use anything! In order to stand out from the competition, one therefore needs a cross-departmental customer orientation and, in addition to what it offers, a company must ensure that its employees and its corporate strategy are focused on customers. Customer satisfaction therefore begins with the company itself, and not just the customer.