The Customer Hierarchy of Needs
By Shep Hyken
Monday, 20th November 2023

Recently, I wrote two articles for my weekly Forbes column that paid homage to Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who created what is referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The articles were so well received that I wanted to share shorter versions here with our Shepard Letter subscribers.

Over the years, I’ve observed customer behavior, and some of my conclusions were confirmed by my customer service and CX research, known as the Achieving Customer Amazement Study (sponsored by Five9). In one of my podcast interviews, someone mentioned Maslow’s model and thought a similar model could be created for customers.

So, here is the Customer Hierarchy of Needs:

  • Products that Work: We start at the base of the pyramid with a basic need: whatever the customer buys from you must do what it’s supposed to do. Even if you deliver an amazing customer experience, if the product fails, your customers will find someone else to do business with.
  • Trust and Safety: Is your reputation helping or hurting you? Customers don’t consciously realize it, but the first time they do business with you, they have uncertainty. We must eliminate uncertainty with predictability and consistency. A good customer experience creates trust. Written policies, such as how you handle your customers’ data, return policies, guarantees and more build trust and safety.
  • Alignment: Your mission, vision and values statements are the foundation of what you and your company stand for. Are they in alignment with your customers’ expectations? If you publish any of these or have brand promises, you must live up to them. In addition, your organization may have principles or causes it stands behind. When they align with what’s meaningful to your customers, you potentially create a stronger connection.
  • Appreciation: Your customers want and expect to feel appreciated for their willingness to pay you for the goods and services you sell. Never forget to demonstrate your appreciation for their business.
  • Emotional Connection: This is where loyalty is created. Customers know your products work, trust you, align with your beliefs and what you stand for, and feel appreciated. In short, they like the way you make them feel. Maintain that feeling and build on it. Move them to feel good about your company, not just what you sell. This is what helps drive customer loyalty.

Is your organization meeting your customers’ needs?

These five levels of the pyramid may be common sense, but when is the last time you thought about them in this way? This is meant to be a conversation starter. Look at each of these “levels” and determine if your organization is meeting your customers’ needs, and if appropriate, feel free to add to the list.

Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at www.Hyken.com. Connect with Shep on LinkedIn.


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