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Applying Maslow To The Needs Of Customers

In 1943 the psychiatrist Abraham Maslow published his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory of human motivation. It has become one of the most recognised social science theories globally because it is visual and so easily understood – in fact there are many popular memes that add many human “requirements”, such as wi-fi and battery life.

Maslow’s theory argues that humans will not concern themselves with some needs until more basic ones are met, so our most basic physiological needs for food and water will be our primary focus and once met we will switch our concern to safety then love and belonging. The pyramid increases until the top level is self-actualisation, where people try to discover a purpose in life, once they no longer need to worry about finding food or a roof over their head.

But I recently read an interesting article that takes the classic Maslow theory and applies it to the customer and brand relationship. The article tends to be focused on Business-to-business (B2B) sales, but I think that it could also be read as a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) guide too.

Let’s list the customer experience hierarchy of needs, starting with the base and then proceeding to the top level:

  1. Functional quality and performance; are the products or services reliable and do the job that is expected of them?
  2. Economic Impact; is the price acceptable and does it make sense to buy this product – is there a worthwhile return on making this investment?
  3. Ease of doing business; is it easy to make a purchase? Does the brand respond when I ask questions?
  4. Trustworthiness; the information I find about products is good and the brands always keeps promises.
  5. Strategic Insight; this is more important for B2B than B2C, but in general it just means does the brand have good ideas – are they innovative and constantly suggesting new ways to work together?
  6. Personal value; is my life or reputation enhanced in some way by purchasing from this brand?

In my opinion, only point 5 is more applicable to the B2B relationship. In all other aspects this hierarchy works from the base to the peak for consumer products too. Let’s consider an example, such as a pair of Nike running shoes. I know they are functional and do the job. I’m happy with the price. It’s easy to buy them. I trust statements from Nike about their products. I believe that by using that product and participating in the Nike Running Club I am improving my health and getting more from my life than I would if I were buying another brand. All the way through the pyramid, it is clear that consumers think this way about many purchases today.

I like the idea of this CX hierarchy of needs and I think I might try writing my own entirely new version based on what customers expect from an interaction with a brand. What do you think would be the most basic expectation? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.