Customer satisfaction is perhaps the most significant tool of assessing the performance of any company or business, as well as a reliable indicator of the likelihood of failure or success of the business. Customer satisfaction, however, is a complex interplay of various factors, such as product or service value addition, packaging, presentation and, ultimately, customer support. Customer support is usually associated with the service industry as it is in any kind of business. The image of the company that customers have is that of the employees who attend to them. This image is created through such interactions as customer queries handling, feedback time, employee courtesy, complaint management, vital consumer information provision in proper time, and the general shopping or other interaction type experience. These factors are as important to a client as a product or service value addition in their lives.
The today’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is experiencing a higher reliance on the services industry than ever before, translating to more engagement between employees and customers in different sectors. The global economy has a 62.9% reliance on services sector (International Monetary Fund, 2012). The Egypt’s service sector contributes 48.6% of its GDP, which is the highest single contributor (International Monetary Fund, 2012). These facts point to a need for the industry players to re-evaluate their core objectives and realize the importance of customer satisfaction (Turban, 2002). This is besides the fact that the non-service sectors also rely on customer satisfaction through direct and indirect interactions of employees and customers in order to remain profitable and to grow. Customer service, which is directly linked with employee- customer contact, is a major contributor to overall customer satisfaction. It is, therefore, important that an employee should project a good company image to a customer. This study will quantify the effects on employee satisfaction of the employee- customer contact and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.The study will seek to address the research problem, which is establishing the effects of employee satisfaction on customer satisfaction. The biggest motivation for this study is the increasing reliance on the services sector of most major economies, and the reliance of the service sector on intricate direct customer contact with employees of a company. Previous studies indicate that customers create an image of the company judging by the “moment of truth”, which is that brief moment when a customer interacts with a company in a business transaction. This moment creates such a lasting impact regardless of whether prior products or services from the company had portrayed a different image (Bulgarella, 2005).
This realization drives the research motivation to find ways in which employee-customer relation can be enhanced. Employee satisfaction is, in turn, the most significant determinant of employee-customer relation. The objective of this study is to establish the most significant factors that affect the way employees relate with customers, the employees contribution to their feelings about their work, the way their feelings about job satisfaction affects the way they handle customers, and, ultimately, how this affects customers satisfaction. The study will also aim at providing solutions to improve the important employer- employee relations with the aim of improving customer satisfaction.
The customer service is a core concept in any company’s management. It defines whether a company will succeed or fail in its future. The currently heightened world economy’s reliance on the service industry points to the importance of proper customer management principles, given that most service companies predominantly feature customer- employee interactions during the ‘moments of truth.’ In a moment of truth, the customer’s expectations from a company get redefined as they interact verbatim with the representative of the company- or the company. This interaction may be in form of physical contact at a customer care outlet, over the phone through a call centre experience, or through correspondence, such as via e-mail. In any case, the customer gets a newer opinion and creates a new image of the company through this experience. Research indicates that moments of truth are more effective in shaping a customer’s opinion regarding a company than the cumulative past experiences they had with the company, such as through previous products and services purchases. Research shows that customers who had a very successful moment of truth are at least two times more likely to place future orders with a company or refer their friends to it, regardless of their previous perceptions of the company, than customers who had an unsatisfactory experience (Hays, 1999).
While the importance of the customer service cannot be overemphasized, the following service is usually the responsibility of front line employees. It is these employees, usually lower to the middle level, who are mandated with projecting the company image to customers through direct contact (moments of truth). A problem arises if these workers are unable to project a good representation due to certain challenges, such as work strain, poor co-worker and employer relations, facilities incapacity or any other challenges. The strain in workers is likely to be transferred onto the customers, possibly damaging the client experience. Lower to the middle level workers, are, unfortunately, the most vulnerable categories to misrepresentation, workplace abuse, underpayment, and general de-motivation in their job roles. The management usually may ignore the internal phenomena arising from work-level conflicts and complaints from junior staff since, in most cases, the highest turnovers are from this category, a factor that may encourage the management to overlook lower level employees’ concerns (Kosteas, 2009).
In order to serve customers better, employees need to perceive just the right internal environment. Employee conflicts may arise due to three factors: horizontal challenges, vertical challenges, and external challenges. Horizontal challenges include relationships between workers themselves, while vertical challenges involve worker relationships with immediate supervisors and senior management. External factors include the customer originated strain, type of job strain, alternative employment incentives among others. In addition, career dissatisfaction is another common challenge. Employer related strain may be associated with poor remuneration, lack of management support, unreasonable workload, poor facilities, lack of self-esteem, employer bullying, and lack of constructive challenges in the work role among others. The co-worker related strain may be as a result of bullying, mistreatment, sexual harassment among others. In order to understand factors that drive customer satisfaction, it is important to discuss how the above factors affect employee satisfaction.
Perceived support from the organization measures the employees feeling about the efforts the organization takes to promote their well being and better the working environment. It also incorporates the extent to which the company values the employee contribution to the success of the company. Perceived support from the supervisor level indicates the way employees feel about their immediate supervisors. It measures the overall contribution of such factors as helpfulness, level of trust between supervisor and employee, friendliness at the communication level, and general atmosphere of work. This factor emphasizes the importance of the social-emotional balance in the workplace as a necessary tool in driving employee and, hence, customer satisfaction. The Yoon model also recognizes the customer input in service delivery as an important contribution to overall customer satisfaction.
The model enlists the customer’s physical, emotional and psychological participation in the product/service development. These three initial forces represent the antecedent for employee satisfaction, a necessary phenomenon for the next stage. The Yoon model identifies supervisor support as the single as well as most significant contributor to employee satisfaction, and that job satisfaction rates more significantly in determining an employee’s service quality than employee service effort. Kosteas (2009) presents a variation of the Yoon model in which service climate and supportive management are the most important antecedents in employee satisfaction. In this model, these basic antecedents affect an employee’s work effort and job satisfaction, which, in turn, drive the employee’s service quality.
This strain arises between employees in the same rank, and it may sometimes arise following temporary placements of certain workers in positions in which supervisory roles give them an advantage over peers. Another possible leeway for employee conflicts arises during extended work periods, such as late hour assignments. This may be common during times when dedicated teams are assigned specific assignments requiring late hour commitments and common transportation to and from location during the following time certain employees may find it easier to bully colleagues. In addition, any such arrangements are likely to compromise employee privacy, as well as hinder private lifestyle (Hays, 1999). The cumulative effect of these off-routine practices may lower employee satisfaction with their work. Employee level conflicts may also arise due to workload management if equality is not perceived to guide each employee’s contribution. It is possible, for instance, for certain workers to shun work which requires a joint effort, thereby overburdening their colleagues. Such scenarios are common in the front office where workers handle customers in queues, such as bank lobbies, customer service centers, airline booking lounges among other, similar places.
According to Alliance Training and Consulting Inc (ATC), there were 11,364 sexual harassment claims filed in 2011 where 16.3 % of those were filed by men. In addition, there were 33,956 claims filed for workplace harassment by colleagues. The total compensations handed in the same duration were worth $153.5 million according to the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The percentage of reported cases is less than 30 even in countries where worker representation is enhanced. It may, therefore, be expected that the effect of employee- employee conflicts whether directly related to harassment and discrimination or not is larger in the actual workplaces than statistics tend to show (Alliance Training and Consulting Inc., 2012). The employer is mandated with the responsibility of enhancing good relations between workers, with an aim of maintaining integrity, teamwork, and respect for co-workers. Bullying Statistics (2012) observes that, up to one third of workers are exposed to bullying, and 20 percent of this leads to actual harassment. In addition, a study documented by The New York Times stated that more than 60 percent of bullies were men, and their victims are equally distributed in gender. The website observes that common effects of workplace bullying include low productivity, absenteeism, low self-esteem, digestive problems, high blood pressure, insomnia and troubled relationships at work. All these factors are incompatible with employee satisfaction and often lead to lowered customer satisfaction.
These conflicts arise in the employer-employee relationship. The first common source of dissatisfaction concerns the work expectations. In a dynamic corporate environment, employers set targets that will help the company realize its growth and profit incentives. These targets, however, fail to put into consideration fairness in worker performance expectations. Management allocates responsibilities based on the ideal situation, which is seldom ever achieved in the real life. The hindrance to idealness is born of system failures, labor force incapacity, emergencies such as work absences among other factors. The management’s rigidity with throughput requirements, therefore, imposes targets that may be unachievable, leading to conflicts. When workers are overwhelmed, their loyalty is decreased (Oats & Vella-Brodrick, 2003). In a 2009 study published by the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS), involvement in management was a major contributor to employee satisfaction in most workplaces, with the only exception being the financial services industry where involvement in management was a stressor (Williams, 2009). In addition, the study found that working in densely populated environments lead to great stress, just as did working in dynamic environments with products whose markets are rapidly growing. In a study on the effects of employer -employee and employee-employer relationship on overall job satisfaction in worker aged 25-35 years conducted by Richard Hammer from the Australian Catholic University, School of Psychology, there was established a positive correlation in both categories (Harmer & Findlay, 2005). The table below indicates the regression values.
Table 1: Determinants of Worker Satisfaction
S.D standard deviation
General job satisfaction
Satisfaction with co-workers
Satisfaction with supervisor
Total well being