Customers expect a seamless Customer Experience (CX). Designing and delivering exceptional experiences requires a deep understanding of your customers’ needs.

We have taken Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs and applied its principles to Customer Experience. According to Maslow, the most basic physiological needs (food, water, air, clothing, and shelter) were foundational and had to be met before the individual could elevate to the highest of 5 levels: self-actualization or the desire to be the most one can be. Customer needs are easy to prioritize using his hierarchy as a framework.

The Hierarchy of Customer Needs

The Foundation

To deliver an exceptional Customer Experience, companies must first satisfy the foundation: the most critical customer needs. The foundational need for a company is trust and integrity. People prefer to do business with people they trust, and with people and companies who have integrity. Customers will not even consider a company if this need is not met.

Supply The Expected

The next step forward is to supply what is expected: a quality product or service delivered on-time, and at a price point that underscores the value provided. Often, companies struggle with these basics – primarily because they are attempting to do all things for all customers. This leads to disappointment for many (if not most). Failure to perform at this level is a primary reason for customer churn.

Provide Great Service

Assuming the customer now trusts you and you deliver quality products on-time at a fair price, it’s time to move to the next level: providing great service. Are you responsive and attentive to customers’ needs and expectations? Is it easy for customers to work with your company and its teams? Do you take responsibility for and resolve problems in a timely manner?

In our Customer Insights studies, we frequently hear, “They have a great product and price-point, but they never respond to my emails and it takes forever for them to answer the phone!” That’s a customer that’s ripe for a competitor.

Help Customers Win

The goal of a successful CX program is to achieve the top of the pyramid – or as Maslow would say, “to be the best you can be.” The top of the pyramid is nirvana for innovation, speed to market, readiness, and collaboration. This is where a partnership can be achieved. Those who achieve CX nirvana understand their customers’ businesses and can address their needs even before they are articulated.

Importantly, our approach for achieving CX nirvana is to focus on your top accounts. While we encourage treating all customers fairly, your top customers deserve to be treated exceptionally. By focusing on delivering a great CX on top accounts, you can anticipate as much as a 25-30% lift in revenue.

The winning formula for our Hierarchy of Customer Needs: The higher the need, the more likely it influences human behavior. The more times you fail in the lower tiers of the pyramid, the more likely your company experiences the dreaded customer churn. Companies who move successfully through these five progressive steps are poised to deliver exceptional customer experience, win loyalty, and grow.

Kay Cruse is a Vice President at Strategex. She can be reached at kcruse@strategex.com.