On Shaky Grounds? – Customer Needs and Service Provision after a Major Disaster in the Light of Maslow’s Hierarchies

Author: Joerg Finsterwalder, University of Canterbury

Abstract: On 04 September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. This paper examines Maslow’s popular psychological construct known as the hierarchy of needs and focuses on how this theory, including its forgotten elements, relates to customer needs and services offered in the wake of a significant natural disaster. Using print and online media sources, this research analyses the needs of individuals following the earthquake, and explores how service providers, from both the public and private sectors, responded. The findings concur with Maslow’s hypothesis, which suggests “lower” needs of individuals become pre-potent during or after a major emergency. Furthermore, the analysis illustrates how public and private service providers made available and/or adapted their services to better cater for these changed needs. The paper concludes that Maslow’s theory provides a useful model to integrate into (post) emergency planning.