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  • Writer's pictureHoward Mann

Embracing Customer Expectations: Navigating the Customer Hierarchy of Needs

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist, laid the foundation for understanding human behavior through his pyramid-shaped model, delving into the motivations that drive people. The model encapsulates five tiers, ranging from basic physiological needs to self-actualization. In the realm of customer experience, a similar exploration is warranted. While I lack formal psychology credentials, my over three decades of studying customer and employee experiences have led me to identify at least five crucial facets in a logical order—the Customer Hierarchy of Needs.

A GIF image representing the hierarchy of customer needs
Customer Hierarchy of Needs

  1. Functional Products: At the foundation of our customer hierarchy is the fundamental prerequisite: products that deliver as promised. Regardless of the excellence in customer service and overall experience, a product or service must fulfill its intended purpose. Without this basic fulfillment, customers are prone to seek alternatives.

  2. Alignment in Beliefs: Mission and vision statements encapsulate the beliefs of a company. However, customers should not need to peruse these statements to discern a company's values. Instead, these values should be palpable in every customer interaction. A deeper connection can be forged when a company aligns with a cause, charity, or community activity, enhancing the emotional connection with customers.

  3. Trust and Safety: The foundation of trust is multifaceted, including a positive reputation, favorable reviews, customer-friendly policies, seamless processes, swift responses, and amiable, helpful staff. Safety, intertwined with trust, encompasses elements such as data privacy, secure websites, and physically safe environments. Even with functional products, lacking trust and safety can jeopardize customer retention.

  4. Appreciation: Every customer contributing to a company's success deserves acknowledgment. A simple thank you goes a long way in fostering a positive customer relationship. Overlooking this gesture risks customers feeling undervalued, potentially leading to attrition. Seizing every opportunity to express appreciation is crucial in maintaining customer loyalty.

  5. Emotional Connection: Elevating customers from satisfaction to loyalty involves establishing an emotional connection. While satisfied customers may return until a better option emerges, loyal customers repeatedly choose a business due to a profound emotional bond. This connection is fostered through a product that works, trust, safety, appreciation, and shared values, culminating in a customer who feels emotionally connected. Achieving this emotional connection is pivotal for fostering customer loyalty, advocacy, and evangelism.

While each of these five customer needs could warrant extensive exploration, consider this article a conversation starter. There is ample room for expanding this list, as Maslow's five-tier model does not impose limitations on our understanding of customer needs.

If you need further assistance in assessing and embracing customer expectations for your business, feel free to reach out to me.


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