Understanding the Science Behind Customer Satisfaction

Understanding the Science Behind Customer Satisfaction

Emily Newton 29/05/2023
Understanding the Science Behind Customer Satisfaction

Every business strives to achieve complete customer satisfaction, regardless of the product or service provided.

Although buyer attitudes and behaviours can vary widely even among the same target audience, there is a general science behind customer satisfaction. Here’s how companies can use psychology to their advantage and form deeper connections with their clients.

Key Customer Motivators

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Customer motivation is the most important factor that companies need to understand. What drives people to spend their money? What grabs their attention and gets them excited to purchase a product or service? These are the primary motivations behind buying behaviour.

1. Survival

Survival is the strongest possible motivation behind every decision intelligent organisms make. If a product helps a buyer meet their basic needs — food, water, shelter and clothing — there will always be a market for it. Businesses in these industries can keep their marketing strategies simple and demonstrate the product’s functionality.

For example, food manufacturers tend to market the nutritional value of their products. Purity and refreshment are the calling cards of plastic water bottle companies. Clothing brands often focus on comfort, durability and performance more than appearance — especially when marketing toward a male target audience.

2. Safety

Safety is the second most powerful motivating factor. That’s why people are willing to spend so much on security systems, insurance policies, firearms and other products that make them less vulnerable. Customer satisfaction inevitably increases if you help the buyer feel secure. They will see you as a trusted organisation more than just a vendor.

3. Status Enhancement

Status enhancement is the greatest customer motivator when products don’t serve a practical purpose. People are more willing to buy a product if it can improve their social status or make a powerful statement. Kit Yarrow, author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind,” describes this attitude perfectly. “Most notable is an increased emphasis on the fundamental need to be seen, respected and connected.”

4. Fulfilment

Sometimes people buy things to fulfil a lifelong dream. This motivation is the main factor that leads customers to make out-of-character purchases. They might not need the product for any specific reason, but they’ve always wanted it. Sometimes businesses only need to meet a trivial want instead of a need to achieve customer satisfaction.

5. Defiance

Defiance is another powerful factor that leads to out-of-character purchases. People who are told they can’t do something may stubbornly feel more motivated to do it. Businesses can increase customer satisfaction by encouraging buyers to indulge their defiant tendencies. This strategy is especially effective among young adults, who tend to be more impulsive.

6. Indulgence

Feel-good purchases that indulge guilty pleasures are bound to have high customer satisfaction rates. They serve a simple purpose: to make people feel better in the moment. Food and alcohol brands often use this motivating factor to great effect when marketing unhealthy snacks or drinks.

7. Distraction

People buy things to distract themselves from their problems all the time. The purchase might not serve any other purpose except to reduce anxious feelings. The entertainment industry heavily relies on distraction. A film or TV show doesn’t have to be high quality to find success. It just needs to be good enough to keep people distracted for a short period.

8. Goodwill

People usually make purchases for selfish reasons, but goodwill is the biggest exception. They buy presents for loved ones on special occasions or if they want to amend a conflict. Gift-giving has been a tried-and-true peacemaking tactic for much of human history. The present might not have any personal significance, but the customer is still satisfied because it was a successful gesture of goodwill.

The Emotional Connection Pathway

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Businesses that understand customers’ motivations can appeal to them and form a deeper relationship. Harvard Business Review refers to this process as the emotional connection pathway. Customer satisfaction shows a sharp increase through the pathway’s four essential steps.

1. Unconnected

Every business-consumer relationship starts in the unconnected stage. The two parties have little knowledge of each other, aside from the fact that the company provides something the shopper might need. It can be challenging to earn a customer’s trust at this stage, especially online, where there’s no face-to-face interaction.

A product might catch someone’s attention, but they probably won’t buy it if they don't know enough about the brand. Slow performance and other technical difficulties also come into play. That’s why 40% of online shoppers never make it to the billing and shipping steps during checkout.

2. High Satisfaction

After a customer buys a product or service, the business can move forward with the relationship-building process. It must find other ways to engage with the shopper and maintain satisfaction. The most straightforward strategy is to support their lifestyle and give them a sense of belonging.

For example, more businesses use sustainable packaging to show their commitment to sustainability and appeal to eco-conscious shoppers. A 2022 study showed that people are 63% more likely to buy a product with clear recycling instructions on the label. These gestures make customer satisfaction less about the product itself and more about the shared values between the two parties.

3. Brand Differentiation

Brand differentiation occurs when the customer sets the business apart from competitors and the industry as a whole. The company provides multiple benefits such as loyalty rewards and discounts, along with reliable products and supporting the client’s values. Building authentic relationships is crucial for maintaining long-term satisfaction.

4. Full Connection

Businesses that form a full connection with customers become 52% more valuable than highly satisfied buyers. Purchases become more frequent and can have up to three times the financial returns compared to the brand differentiation category. This trend is especially true for cleaning products, mobile apps, credit card purchases and online shopping.

Customer Satisfaction Is a Journey, Not a Destination

People have many unique motivations for their buying decisions. Appealing to them is just the first step in achieving customer satisfaction, and it doesn’t end after the purchase. On the contrary, customer satisfaction is a journey that requires businesses to slowly cultivate and maintain connections, leading to long-term relationships with clients.

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Emily Newton

Science & Tech Expert

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She is a science and technology journalist with over three years covering industry trends and research. 

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