iClassPro Blog

The Psychology of Need Fulfillment

April 01, 2015

Let’s take a look at some basic psychology and how it applies in the work place. The focus of this article will be on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it can be applied to both employee and customer satisfaction.

In case you aren’t familiar with the subject, we’ll cover the basics. Abraham Maslow was a prominent American psychologist in the 1950-1960’s. He was on the cutting edge of humanistic psychology- or the idea that every human’s driving force was to reach their full potential. Pretty basic, right?

In the explanation of his theories, Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy states that all humans have 5 basic kinds of needs and that those needs must be filled in a particular order; starting with physical needs, then moving up the pyramid through safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and finally the need to reach self-actualization. In this theory, one set of needs must be met before the focus can shift to the next step of the pyramid.


Why are we talking about the psychology of needs?

Because Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can actually be applied in a business sense. To build a truly successful business or brand, each of these needs will need to be addressed with both employees and potential customers (assuming that they are human).


Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy to Business

Below are some practical applications of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as they apply to business.

Addressing Employees’ Needs

Physical Needs- The survival level needs you have to address with employees include a physical place to conduct business from, lunch hours, breaks, bathrooms and of course a wage that supports their personal ability to meet the physical needs of food, shelter, warmth etc. when they aren’t at work.

Safety Needs- These are needs for comfort, order and consistency such as job security, an employees’ physical safety and the overall condition of the work environment.

Social Needs- In the workplace, social needs boil down to the ability to communicate effectively to get their job done. That includes a friendly atmosphere among co-workers as well as observing the proper approaches to management, discipline, etc.

Esteem Needs- These are items that build an employee’s confidence and self-esteem such as a fancy job title, designated duties or tasks where the employee has a significant degree of control and the evaluation and subsequent recognition for accomplishments.

Self-Actualization- This applies in the sense that the employee has opportunities to be creative, learn new skills, and contribute to leadership decisions. This is usually the result of a promotion to leadership positions.

Addressing the Needs of Customers

Physical Needs- The physical needs of the customer can vary based on your business. If you have an office or physical space where you serve customers- items like bathrooms, water fountains, and basic equipment needed to carry out a transaction or customer service experience.

Safety Needs- In the customer/business relationship, the needs for comfort, order and consistency can largely be associated with brand image and the customer’s experience. There should not be a gap between the impression you are attempting to give with branding and the reality of your business transactions. Inconsistencies can make customers feel uneasy and perhaps unsafe when doing business with you.

Social Needs- Social needs are typically addressed in person to person interactions with your business. When an employee treats a customer with care and understanding- calling a customer by his/her name, tending to their individual problems or desires and saying thank you are all basic social interactions.

Esteem Needs- To fulfill esteem needs, a business has to make the customer feel valued, or at a minimum, feel good about doing business. Beyond basic social business interactions- how you treat loyal customers, contribute to society and handle transparency about major company events- will contribute to a customer’s self-esteem. In short, doing business with you says something about themselves.

Self-Actualization- The realization that the customer has some influence on your business. Not only do customers want to feel good about interactions with your business and what your business is doing for society- but they also want to feel involved in positive change. Some companies conduct polls to see which product lines should and should not continue. Others take feedback and follow up with customers on how that feedback has changed the way they do business. These kind of interactions allow customers to be creatively involved in the business process.


Reality Check

Now, I think we can all agree that every business runs into periodic failures when it comes to meeting the needs of both employees and customers. And in most cases, those employees and customers understand that and will stick around if they are confident that the need is going to be addressed. However, repeated failures, a lack of transparency and lengthy resolution times needs can and will eventually cause them to look elsewhere.


Personal Application

Can you think of a time as either an employee or a customer where the business missed out on fulfilling one of your vital needs? Which level of Maslow’s hierarchy did that need fall into? Did you give the business a grace period for getting it right? Or was it serious enough to make you immediately walk out the door?