Measure customer satisfaction using Gallup’s four levels of customer expectations

Measure Customer Satisfation gallup

The Gallup Organization has found there are four levels of customer expectation that help companies measure customer satisfaction.

The revolutionary research which was reported in the book, First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, suggests that as a customer becomes ‘closer’ to a company, they move up the levels and expect more from them.

In other words, to increase customer satisfaction, companies should focus on each of the four levels of customer expectation.

According to authors Buckingham and Coffman, the four levels are:

  • Level 1: Accuracy. At the lowest level, customers expect accuracy.
  • Level 2: Availability. The next step is availability.
  • Level 3: Partnership. At this level customers expect partnership.
  • Level 4: Advice. The most advanced level of customer expectation is advice. Customers feel the closest bond to organizations that have helped them learn.

How this helps you measure customer satisfaction

In developing Client Heartbeat, we used the findings from Gallup to form our core four questions for our customer satisfaction tool. Since customer satisfaction is the result of whether a company meets or exceeds customer expectations, using these same questions can help us measure how happy your customers really are.

Let me explain.

Accuracy is the first level and is the bare essential ingredient to maintaining customer satisfaction. Inconsistency is what really hurts companies here. If you can’t even get the job done right the first, how do you expect to keep them happy and retain their business? Think of it like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, this is the bare minimum you must do to keep a customer.

How happy are you with our attention to detail and thoroughness? 

Availability (or what we call Promptness) is the second level. Now a customer starts expecting a bit more from you. They’ve received the right product, now they want good, quick and prompt service. Most companies meet these expectations today, so even if you manage to get accuracy and availability right; loyalty and satisfaction is not necessarily strong yet.

How happy are you with the speed and efficiency at which we are able to respond to your requests?

Partnership is the third level where customers want you to listen and understand them. Customers who feel understood are a step closer to real satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, customers want to feel as if you have a two-way relationship with them and that you actually care. Beyond just delivering your product or service, they want you to genuinely care about their business.

How happy are you with how collaborative and proactive we are in the way that we work with your organisation?

Advice is the fourth and last level of customer expectation. Customers feel the closest level of bond to companies in the advice level. Most companies won’t get to this level because they do not offer advice and educate customers beyond the bare product or service that they deliver. This is an area I speak a lot about in other blog posts. Educating customers is so valuable and one of my favorite ways to improve customer satisfaction.

How happy are you with the extent to which we help you learn and provide recommendations that are in the best interest of your organisation?

Educating customers builds loyalty, improves satisfaction and increases retention.

client heartbeat's hierarchy of customer expectiations

Client Heartbeat used the model established by Gallup to create the ‘Hierarchy of Customer Expectations’ as a better way to represent their findings.

Using Four Levels to Improve Customer Satisfaction

So how can you use these four levels to identify areas you can improve customer satisfaction?

Well, let’s break it down.

Remember that accuracy and availability are the basics. Most companies have these covered. If you can’t ensure accuracy and offer prompt service, I recommend you go back and look at your operations and systems to see what you’re doing wrong.

The real value I believe lies in the last two levels; partnership and advice. These are areas that you can really leverage to stand out and form a competitive advantage.

Related: How to use customer satisfaction as a point of differentiation

Improving Partnership

If your customer’s score you 7/10 or below for partnership, you have some room to improve. Here are my key takeaways you can use to improve partnership:

  • Go out of your way to show that you care. If you come across an interesting article that makes you think of a customer, send them through a friendly email and let them know.
  • Look for opportunities you can help. Whether it be an introduction or simply sharing their good content across your social networks, little things that can help your customers go a long way to building the ‘partnership feeling’ where they feel it is a two-way relationship.
  • Listen to your customers. Stop thinking so much about your awesome products and services and ask customers about their business. Spend time to really understand what they do, the challenges they are facing and some of successes they have experienced.

Improving Advice

Anything under 7/10 for advice and you need to improve. Here are my key takeaways to improve advice:

  • Start creating educational content. A blog is an easy way to get started, also think about hosting webinars and writing ebooks. Focus your content on your customer’s challenges and problems. This ensures you are writing stuff that is interesting and adds value.
  • Be their ‘guy’. If you provide IT services, be their ‘IT guy’ for all things technology. If you’re an accountant, be their ‘accounting guy’ for all things numbers. Offer up your time to give advice that’s not on billable. Be open to your customers coming to you for advice that extends beyond the service agreement you have.
  • Be an industry leader. Leverage your educational material to become an industry thought leader. Showcase your expertise and get recognised for being one of the best in your industry. This adds value to your offering as it shows customers that you are one of the best in your field.

Ask the right questions to accurately measure and improve satisfaction

Measuring customer satisfaction starts with asking the right questions. If you’re just asking random questions, how do you know they represent customer satisfaction?

Leverage the ground breaking research from Gallup to your advantage and create customer satisfaction surveys that actually give you insight into how happy your customers really are.

Include these four questions with a 10 point rating scale in your next customer satisfaction survey.

  • How happy are you with our attention to detail and thoroughness? (accuracy)
  • How happy are you with the speed and efficiency at which we are able to respond to your requests? (availability)
  • How happy are you with how collaborative and proactive we are in the way that we work with your organisation? (partnership)
  • How happy are you with the extent to which we help you learn and provide recommendations that are in the best interest of your organisation? (advice)

Need a customer satisfaction tool?

Client Heartbeat has these four questions already built into the tool. We used the research from Gallup to create a customer satisfaction survey that gives you the most accurate feedback on how happy (or unhappy) your customers are.

Want to explore this more? Read these articles:

Tagged: Customer Satisfaction

About Ross Beard

Ross Beard was on the marketing team at Client Heartbeat, the simple customer feedback tool. Learn how Client Heartbeat makes improving customer satisfaction easy.

  • Brendon O’Sullivan

    Awesome article – well articulated – thanks Ross & presenting same to my team today!

    • Ross Beard

      Thanks Brendon, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Pete

    Hi Ross,

    Great article – however, small typo in the spelling of Satisfaction on the header image.


    • Ross Beard

      Thanks Pete – fixed.

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