Changes in technology have always changed customer satisfaction, and has redefined customer satisfaction; changing what customers define as satisfaction. That definition has been changing more rapidly than ever before.
First, let’s look at the history of what customers consider to be a satisfying relationship with a company. A century ago, customer satisfaction was defined by how well the customer and the service provider got along. This was the era of the corner store, when customers directly communicated with the proprietor of a business or had only one or two layers of employees between them and the owner. This was a time of direct communication and problems were resolved in the person to person manner.
As technology increased and business went increasingly national, the corner store faded into obscurity and the chain store took its place. Now the customer was no longer in direct communication with the owner of the business, and in most cases the owners were the stockholders whose sole interaction with the business was periodically electing the Board of Directors. Customer satisfaction then became defined as receiving what was promised. Advertisements in newspapers and magazines had to match what the customer experienced and received when making a purchase. This redefined customer satisfaction was increasingly placed on the shoulders of employees who had never met the high level managers responsible the company policies.
Digital technology is changing the definition of customer satisfaction once again. The sheer level of communication available through websites, online chats and social media has created a strange ghostly image of the corner store. Companies may do business globally, but they find it increasingly necessary to communicate locally and personally.
Customers now define satisfaction as participation with a brand rather than simply patronising a brand. Today’s customers expect personalised service even though the company they are doing business with may be halfway around the world. Companies must now discover customer opinion through surveys and social media. Like in the days of the corner store, no modern company can afford to ignore customer opinion.
Customers expect personalised service in this digital age. Today, companies are required to invest in technology such as mobile apps and engagement software that bring the customer into a closer relationship with their brands.
This is ironic, because not all that long ago it was believed that the computer would be a dehumanising factor in society. In fact the exact opposite has occurred. Far from being diminished as individuals, customers now expect to be informed by relevant content and to have personally tailored customer service, whether that services is in person, online or through mobile apps.
The company that can leverage this new era of communication and use it to become the customer’s best friend, at least in relation to providing products or services, will be the one to profit from this redefined customer satisfaction. The future of customer satisfaction will be a blend of digital efficiency and the personal human touch.