The True Source of Customer Satisfaction—A Lesson From the Past
In 1941, Frederick Roethlisberger wrote a famous article about satisfaction that still holds powerful lessons for every person who is involved in service delivery. Roethlisberger wrote of what became known as the Hawthorne experiments, a series of studies that sought to answer the question: How can employers make employees more productive? At first, researchers fiddled with lighting, temperature, variations in work breaks, and the like. The researchers found that none of these things predicted increased productivity. Slowly but surely, what came to light is that people were more productive when they were more satisfied, but still, what caused satisfaction? The answer soon emerged. People’s satisfaction increased when they experienced genuine human interaction. Researchers discovered that when they talked to employees about their concerns, needs, thoughts and feelings—when employees were made to feel special—that satisfaction and productivity increased significantly.
The Hawthorne experiments led us down the path to some important discoveries about satisfaction that were articulated in subsequent studies. Most importantly is this: we can attempt to increase satisfaction by changing something in the environment (lighting, work breaks, more money, etc.) or by improving the quality of human interaction. The real solution to creating satisfaction lies in the quality of the human interaction—relationships. You can “give” people something or change the environment, but those things will not result in satisfaction. They will only prevent people from becoming dissatisfied. Let’s take an example from customer service. We have all witnessed an event whereby a customer was given a refund because of poor service delivery or unmet expectations. That customer is not going to be satisfied just because he was given a refund (money). As last week’s article stated, a genuine apology and attempt to listen to and understand the customer’s disappointment is the key to creating satisfaction and loyalty. Here we see that it is not the refund that creates the satisfaction; it is the quality of the human interaction.
At the end of the day, Frederick Roethlisberger’s findings are extremely important to customer service delivery, because the discoveries had everything to do with satisfaction. Whether we wish to improve satisfaction in the workplace or with our customers, the key is quality, genuine interaction. Quality interaction depends on people who know how to ask questions, know how to listen, and know how to make others feel special. That was true in 1941 and it is still true today.
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