There was once this guy named Abraham Maslow, and way back in 1943 he devised an interesting theory about human nature. Based on his research, and having read alot of stuff by earlier psychologists like William James, he came up with this pyramid structure that can be viewed as a form of personal development, progressing from the bottom (the starting point) to the top (the ultimate goal). The theory is called the hierarchy of human needs. Before the next stage above can be reached, each progressive stage underneath must first be completed. Each deficiency is detected, dealt with and then removed before progressing to the next level. In fact, all basic human needs are based on the following two universal groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. These are the levels of the pyramid from lowest to highest:
- Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.
- Safety/security: out of danger.
- Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted.
- Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.
- Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore.
- Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty.
- Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one's potential.
- Transcendence: to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
So tell me, on which level do you now find yourself? I have studied this all very carefully, and I see myself as vacillating between level 4 (41%), level 5 (33%) and level 6 (17%) with the remaining 9% distributed randomly everywhere else. I still have a long ways to go before I occupy level 7 (2.2%) and level 8 (0.3%) on a more regular basis, but that is the ultimate concern (purpose in life) for everyone else including me, myself and I.
So if we are expected to relate this fine theory to a real life situation, then how does one define the keys to success? In other words, in view of the Maslow's pyramid, how are we to avoid the temptations of failure and/or the pitfalls that weigh us down too much by groveling at the lower stages? There is a natural resistance, but once the lower levels are satisfied there is a world of opportunity opened up.
For the real-life situation, I have chosen the concrete example of implementing a successful customer relations mind-set as described in the article The Human Dimension of CRM by Bill Brendler. In this article it is stressed that not all change is technical. In fact, the most important changes are never technical at all; rather the changes take place on the level of perceptions and feelings. One can say that there is a company growth required, fueled by a collective growth of individuals (the employees), a number of phases that must be passed.
There is obviously an excellent match with Maslow's pyramid. First of all, one must move away from the lower, more physical needs in order to adapt and accept external changes. These are satisfied. There is a movement towards a customer-centric attitude, and it is a welcome change that can best be confronted head on. Indeed, it is a phase transition for the whole company, during which management plays a vital role in prioritizing the "human" issues. People resist change because they do not see that it is in their self-interest, the lower levels of the Maslow pyramid. Resistance is the weight that pulls one downwards, but it is not bad. Through growth one recognizes that resistance is typically an energy that can be redirected and geared towards the more noble pursuit of helping customers.
The deficiency needs of the employees are taken care of by the company that provides the basic "physical needs" like the working environment. From here, the growth needs of the individual are fuelled with passion in order to stimulate a customer-centric energy source. In a sense, keeping customers and making them come back again and again means acquiring significant capital gain. After all, customers are humans also and each and every one of them is undergoing the very same pyramidal phase transition.
The key to success is thus matching the internal phase transition within the company with the external growth of the customer with whom one is building a changing and evolving relationship.
Note: this entry was written in the form of an executive summary for a course called "BCR - Building Client Relationships," and covers the topic "What and why of client relationships."