Employee Satisfaction Generates Superior Customer Satisfaction

improve customer service

It’s really impossible to achieve superior customer satisfaction when your employees don’t feel valued as part of your team. In general, employees do whatever you motivate them to do, so when you don’t motivate your employees to deliver superior customer service, you lose customers and gain negative word of mouth that harms your business far into the future.

superior customer service
Providing superior customer service

First, let’s discuss what we mean by superior customer service. Speaking frankly, any time your employees interact with customers, whether face-to-face, over the phone, or through online chat, you face the very real possibility of failure to meet customer expectations. In academics, we talk about this meeting between your company and your customer as the “moment of truth“.

Customer delight

The moment of truth is a function of consumer expectations about your brand gleaned from your advertising, digital presence, PR, and word of mouth, either traditional or through social networks. The gap between what a customer expects and their evaluation of what they received represents customer satisfaction. When you meet customer expectations, you are satisfied, when a company fails to meet expectations, you’re dissatisfied, and when you exceed customer expectations, you get superior customer satisfaction, sometimes called customer delight.

Brand loyalty

Consumers are a fickle lot. Satisfied customers may or may not purchase additional products from you, but dissatisfied customers not only refuse to shop your brand again (at least not without additional, often costly, inducements) and they tell all their friends about their negative experiences, poisoning the well for your brand with potential customers. When customers are delighted with your products, they form an emotional connection with your brand that generates brand loyalty and prompts delighted customers to promote your brand to their social networks online and off. Not only that, but delighted customers may go the extra mile to defend your brand from critics, which provides a valuable counterpoint to complaints that resonate with consumers as they come from respected members of the community.

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Image courtesy of MarketingProfs

Notice in the image above, the impact as you move customers further down the conversion funnel to build a relationship with them and retain customers. Reaching this level resides firmly in providing superior customer service.

Motivating employees to achieve superior customer satisfaction

It’s really hard to enforce good behavior on the part of employees because you can’t watch them all the time, otherwise, you’d need a supervisor watching each employee and personnel costs go through the roof.

But, what’s the alternative?

In some collective cultures, such as you find in Asia, employees felt natural fealty to their employer because traditional employer/ employee relationships lasted a lifetime. That situation is rapidly changing and never existed in most Western cultures, like the US. Instead, companies must help employees feel like valuable members of a team to achieve superior customer service. This is especially true with frontline employees.

Today, we’ll discuss tactics to achieve superior customer satisfaction through satisfied employees.

Employee motivation

In general, we divide employee motivation into 2 buckets: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation or, in the famous Hertzberg’s theory, motivational and hygiene factors, respectively. This article goes on to delineate the difference in motivation between the two factors thus:

According to Herzberg, the factors leading to job satisfaction [motivational factors] are ‘separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction [hygiene factors].’ Therefore, if you set about eliminating dissatisfying job factors, you may create peace but not necessarily enhance performance. This placates your workforce instead of actually motivating them to improve performance.

Let’s start by discussing extrinsic motivation since most readers are likely more familiar with this type of motivation and it’s more straightforward.

Extrinsic or hygiene factors

When we talk about extrinsic motivation, we’re talking about tangible rewards, like wages, perks, and benefits. Additionally, employees may be inspired by the prospect of receiving the prestigious “Employee of the Month” recognition award. It’s really hard to motivate employees unless you satisfy these standards, while not impossible when intrinsic motivators overbalance extrinsic ones. We’ll return to that in a moment.

Wages are the most obvious of the extrinsic motivators. If you think of your people as replaceable cogs in a giant wheel that is the business, you likely try to hire the lowest-paid workers possible. And, you’ll get what you deserve. High employee turnover and poor employee performance. Your best employees will leave for greener pastures, leaving you with an increasingly disappointing workforce and higher costs.

I once worked with several Mexican firms that brought me in as a consultant to help them reduce their high turnover rates. Routinely, employees would work for a few months and then leave to return home or find another employer. Worker shortages meant good workers could easily find new jobs and even workers with spotty records would just leave during a holiday and return to working for a different company when they wanted to extend their holiday beyond what the firm allowed.

The situation devolves quickly when wages aren’t paid as agreed or mistakes are made in calculating wages. That’s why it makes sense to hire small business payroll services from a firm specializing in this function, especially if you can’t afford a top-notch payroll department.

Extrinsic motivators are easy to arrange and adjust according to your needs. However, as motivators, they’re not very good. A pay increase feels great for a few weeks and motivates employees but that motivation lessens over time, especially when another pay increase doesn’t follow at regular intervals. In fact, extrinsic or hygiene factors are likely to create dissatisfaction when absent and little in the way of long-term motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation lasts much longer than extrinsic motivation and doesn’t die when new rewards don’t come fast enough, as happens with extrinsic motivators. Motivators act to create employee satisfaction.

But, intrinsic motivators are harder to structure and rely on effective leadership to implement them.

Some examples of intrinsic motivators are [source]:

  • Gamification, such as badges and plaques
  • Trust
  • Provide a sense of purpose
  • Understand what individual employees want, which is why workers in nonprofits work hard despite poor working conditions and pay.
  • Work-life balance
  • Open door policy
  • Transparency
  • Let employees take ownership (not financially but in terms of directing their work)
  • Recognition rituals, such as weekly recognition
  • Opportunities for growth
  • Advancement opportunities

Workplace conditions

Of course, a number of workplace conditions feed into motivation, as well. Equity is chief among these conditions. If employees feel a lack of equity in either hygiene or motivational factors, they aren’t motivated to generate superior customer satisfaction and may even seek ways to tank your operation.

Another workplace condition that impacts employee satisfaction relates to stress in the workplace. If employees face enormous workloads or constantly deal with dissatisfied customers, they become dissatisfied, which further irritates customers and achieving superior customer satisfaction is impossible.


Achieving superior customer satisfaction relies heavily on your ability to motivate your employees and keep them satisfied. This is simply a brief introduction to the topic of employee satisfaction and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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