It is a well established fact that ‘How’ a service is delivered is of utmost important to the customer – and influences the customer satisfaction to a great extent.

Now, talking about satisfaction, are there different attributes of the service that impact ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘user satisfaction’?  Anyone who has been associated with the service industry will definitely know the answer : Yes!

While customer gives a bit higher priority to aspects like SLA parameters (such as availability), cost-effectiveness (and in a broader sense – ‘value’ of the service), user satisfaction is influenced more by soft aspects of the service delivery & support (behaviour, attitude, interpersonal skills, follow-up, empathy etc etc) and SLA parameters like response, performance etc.

In corporate environments (where the service is delivered to a ‘business’), the distinction is easier to manage, as there are distinguished roles of ‘customer’ and and ‘users’ – and generally, a corporate gives higher priority to the business value (or ‘customer’) aspects of the service

It could be easily observed that the overlapping of ‘customer’ and ‘user’ in the consumer industry making it difficult for the service provider to balance the two (often conflicting) priorities. Since the same individual often becomes both the ‘customer’ and ‘user’, even his/her priorities tend to shift to the ‘user’ side – the role he/she plays much more than the other.

I strongly feel that the issues faced by most of us as ‘bad service’ from service providers are because of this conflict.

The users tend to give more weightage to aspects like response, personalized service, behaviour, follow up etc – while the service providers treat them as customers and give priority to those factors on which a ‘customer’ would be satisfied!

A recent experience of a friend of mine reinforced this thought process in my mind:

The power supply in his area went out one rainy morning. When he contacted the electricity office, the response almost ‘blew him away’ (in his own words) : ‘they would check the reason of outage only when the rain stops!’ Now, the power resumed after a few hours (mind you – no SLA, no target resolution times) – and to his surprise, the people at the electricity office called back to check if the power was ok!

Surprise, surprise! – my friend said in the end : the service is not that bad after all!

What influenced that response here? The way the closure was carried out and the follow-up, when the user was expecting it the least! Obviously the ‘user’ was on forefront here – and not the ‘customer’.  Hence the soft factors and the final action mattered the most in satisfaction than ‘value’ factors like SLA, availability, metrics etc.

Numerous other examples could be quoted to analyze such factors here.

Here is the summary of the hypothesis here – that will be useful for the service provider to keep in mind:

  • In businesses , the ‘customer’ factor has a slightly upper hand over ‘user’ factor.
  • In consumer scenarios, the ‘user’ priorities get upper hand compared to ‘customer’ priorities.

Any thoughts on this?