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Customer satisfaction, like any other aspect of a business, is a practiced art that takes time and effort to develop. Taking the time to build trust and developing a good rapport with the buyer is the foundation towards building a lasting and successful relationship.

While the factors determining customer satisfaction differ per product and/or service, per industry, per sector and per country, there are a few factors that are specific to the outsourcing industry in particular. A white paper from Tholons titled "Relationships at the Core of Successful Outsourcing Contracts" cited the main reasons for failed outsourcing relationships between an outsourcing company and offshore buyer as unclear expectations, poor communication, improper governance, misaligned interests and to a very small fraction poor performance.

Listed below are the 5 essential levels of customer satisfaction that an outsourcing vendor has to achieve in order make their clients feel valued, wanted and most importantly satisfied. Each level is based on a natural order of hierarchy and should be approached from the lowest to the highest. The higher the level you achieve, the more you will build customer loyalty and the greater will be your success.

Level 1 - Meet your client's expectations

The first level deals with the company or business user itself. The minimum requirement at this level is to meet the expectations of your customers. At level 1, your customers have no complaints and are satisfied for the moment. But they are not loyal and can turn into ex-customers if their expectations are not met.

When a vendor approaches an outsourcing company, the vendor expects certain specifics regarding finance, quality, productivity, technology infrastructure etc., which you are required to comply with. By proving to the company that you are able to deliver what they expect, you gain their trust which is vital to customer satisfaction. Remember, if a job is not done correctly as per the client's standards of expectancy, the client will not care how courteous or friendly the employees are.

Level 2 - Exceed your client's expectations

The second level of customer satisfaction is concerned with exceeding your business users' expectations. Business users are the key stakeholders to the technology infrastructure you support, the applications you develop and maintain, and the services you provide. The second level of customer satisfaction moves you beyond mere survival and takes you towards building a measure of customer loyalty and giving you the much needed edge over your competitors.

Succeeding at level 2 can also increase your profitability. This is because clients who receive a service that exceeds their expectations are often willing to pay for it, enabling the outsourcing company to raise prices and thus improve profit margins. On the other hand failure to impress the business user can lead to them seeking better products and services elsewhere.

Level 3 - Partner with your client's goals and objectives

This level is of extreme importance, especially to an outsourcing company. This is because an outsourcing company is technically an extension of the business user, or put more simply an organization within an organization. Therefore the business users' goals and objectives are aligned and depend either partially or fully on the outsourcing vendor.

The third level of customer satisfaction is to ensure that your entire team works towards the common goal of achieving the clients' aim and objective. The plus point is that once you reach this level, it will be very difficult for a competitor to pry your client away.

Level 4 - Be up-to-date with technology infrastructure

For any outsourcing company desiring to be on top, it is important to pay attention to the latest technology trends and be up-to-date with most recent in technology infrastructure. Business users prefer to outsource their core and non-core activities to those who possess the latest in technology infrastructure.

This level of customer satisfaction must not be overlooked because however satisfied the buyer is with you, they may have to opt for a competitor if you don't possess the latest in technology infrastructure.

Level 5 - Win over the business user on a personal level

While the earlier four levels would help you achieve 99% of customer satisfaction this final level will help you win 100%. Finding out the various personal wins for a few key individuals in the client's organization and helping them achieve these wins can go a long way in establishing your position as a favored outsourcing vendor. It could range from a simple wish for someone who wants to travel to your country to someone who is looking for a promotion through the success of a present project.

The challenge in this level lies in the fact that a majority of personal wins are hidden or at least not immediately apparent and therefore requires more effort to be put in on the part of the outsourcing company.

Understanding and implementing these 5 levels of customer satisfaction in your company can go a long way in building a fruitful and successful long term relationship with your customers.

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