Most companies recognize in their mission statements that customer satisfaction is essential to their ability to grow their business. In conducting various focus groups we have learned that some companies accomplish this by offering better products and service. Some do this by improved quality control. Others try to improve value and timely delivery.

These five objectives (product, quality, personalized services, timely delivery, and value) appear to satisfy customers. However, there is no company that consistently uses all five on a continuous basis.

The challenge therefore for management is how to get employees to consciously deliver these services to the customer.

Understanding that the focus must be on the employee is key to delivering the services. Unfortunately, some companies depend on their marketing instead and end up not delivering the promise.

In 1972, I was challenged by my boss to develop a training program that would get employees to deliver these services to the customer on a continuous basis.

After several months of trial and error we came up with a program that proved to be successful.

The program focused on employee needs and we used Maslow Hierarchy of Needs as our starting point.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is predetermined in order of importance. It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy Non Profit Growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level. For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.

The lower four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “D-needs”: physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, and esteem. With the exception of the lowest (physiological) needs, if these “deficiency needs” are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense.

For the most part, physiological needs are obvious – they are the literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met (with the exception of sex), the human body simply cannot continue to function.

Physiological needs include:
o Breathing
o Homeostasis
o Water
o Sleep
o Food
o Excretion
o Sex
o Clothing
o Shelter

With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual’s safety needs take over and dominate their behavior. These needs have to do with people’s yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which injustice and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent and the unfamiliar rare. In the world of work, these safety needs manifest themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, and the like.

For the most part, physiological and safety needs are reasonably well satisfied in the “First World.” The obvious exceptions, of course, are people outside the mainstream – the poor and the disadvantaged. If frustration has not led to apathy and weakness, such people still struggle to satisfy the basic physiological and safety needs. They are primarily concerned with survival: obtaining adequate food, clothing, shelter, and seeking justice from the dominant societal groups.

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