This paper examines customer satisfaction related competence development especially from the perspective of personnel training. A theoretical framework for customer satisfaction related competence development consisting of three major areas is described. The areas covered in the framework are strategy & structure, customer focus, and service & quality. The framework is validated empirically. The paper describes alternative methods to evaluate personnel training. Also, it was studied what kind of evaluation methods firms are using to evaluate the implemented personnel training. The empirical results indicate that feedback from customers, productivity figures, supervisory observation, and customer satisfaction studies are the most often used evaluation methods for personnel training.
It has become an economic necessity for companies to keep their current customers satisfied, while attracting new customers costs more than keeping the old ones. According to Miller (1994) customer satisfaction is the only acceptable measure of future corporate performance. Customer satisfaction is a function of customer expectations and perceptions of the services (Bateson, 1991). Customer expectations have a major impact on customer satisfaction. Stauss and Mang (1999) imply that customers who have clear expectations of the service performance react strongly in cases where the service performance deviates from their expectations. Therefore, customer expectations should be influenced through communication. High level of customer satisfaction is widely believed to be a good indicator describing company's profitable operations in the future (Kotler, 1991). Failing to meet customers' expectations is more likely to have a negative effect on customers repurchase intentions, which decreases the marketing profitability (Anderson & Sullivan, 1993). However, satisfying customers is not enough to retain them, and being able to retain its customers is crucial for a company (Deming, 1988). The advocacy of customer focus in different kind of organizations, to improve customer satisfaction and business performance, is widespread. However, practical guidance on building and maintaining customer focus is relatively rare (Piercy, 1995).
However, if customer satisfaction is seen as an important corporate level objective then how could it be improved? Training is a viable method to build and maintain a customer focus and to keep the current customer base. According to Ferketish and Hayden (1992) the human resource development (HRD) challenge for the future is to assure a continuous improvement culture by keeping the system aligned with continuous improvement strategies. A learning culture provides managers with the information and analyses necessary to modify their organizations to satisfy both internal and external stakeholders (Harvey et al., 1998). It is evident that there are no easy tricks that make the company's customer base satisfied overnight. Like all continuous improvement programs, also customer satisfaction improvement programs are based on continuity. In customer relationship perspective this means that a satisfied customer is more likely to be loyal and make further purchases. Therefore the long-term profitability of satisfied customers becomes the key for profitable operations overall. Customer satisfaction improvement programs can be seen to consist of following phases: (1) understanding the importance of satisfied customer base and linking this understanding with company's strategy, (2) allocating development resources to achieve improved level of customer satisfaction, and (3) controlling the improvement process by measurements. According to Fojt (1995) the customer-based metrics are the key to high-performance organizations.
Satisfied customers are a prerequisite for future corporate success. Even though the company would be oriented to satisfy the needs of its customers, it also has to meet the market's product and/or service needs. …