Customer satisfaction is the degree to which a buyer is satisfied with a product, service or company. Customer satisfaction objectives can be broken down into three main groups. The first is satisfaction with the purchase, which includes how well the product performed, and whether it met customer expectations and similar perceptions. The second is satisfaction with the process, which includes ease of making the purchase as well as customer service or warranty interactions after the purchase. The third of the main customer satisfaction objectives is the degree to which satisfaction levels affect future actions, such as recommending a product to others or buying again.
Companies are very interested in ensuring that customers are happy with the performance of a product or the quality of service because it will affect future purchase decisions. In fact, quality may be the most important of the customer satisfaction objectives because the consequences of a bad product or poorly performed service are virtually impossible to overcome. Companies often perform extensive market research and product testing to ensure that the product or service will meet as many of a client's needs and expectations as possible.
Whether the product being purchased is a tangible item, an intangible item or a service, quality is important. If a customer feels that the product does not work or does not work as well as anticipated, or if she feels that the product is unsafe, hard to use or not worth the price, she will not be satisfied. Misleading advertising or advertising that raises a customer's expectations beyond what the product can deliver will also lead to customer dissatisfaction.
Satisfaction with the process also is important to consider when determining customer satisfaction objectives. A customer who is unhappy with the process might go to a competitor next time, even if she is happy with the performance of the actual product. Process incorporates all actions involved in researching and purchasing a product, but also with resolving issues after the purchase.
It is important for buyers to feel that the purchase process is easy and that their business is valued. This means that online and telephone ordering systems must be easy to use. Retail locations must be properly staffed, and all personnel must be polite and willing to assist the customer as needed. Warranty, return and issue-resolution processes must also be efficient and friendly.
A discussion of customer satisfaction objectives should always include the impact on future behavior. While it is desirable that the customer have a good experience with both the product and the process, a truly satisfied customer will return to make future purchases and will recommend the product or service to others. This grows the company's customer base and contributes to long-term customer relationships.