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It’s All About Customer Satisfaction

3 Aug, 2015 By: Kathy Vogler, PERRY proTECH

There are many statistics circulating, but according to Lee Resource, for every customer complaint there are another 26 unhappy customers that remain silent.  It’s easy for a business or employees to correlate customer satisfaction with the bottom line.  “We’re doing great and we’re growing, so all is well.”  That might be the case, but a true, accurate gauge on customer satisfaction plays one of the most important roles in your entire organization.  This sounds really simple, but the only way you can find out is to ask them directly.  And, ask them often.

What to ask

When you put together a customer satisfaction survey, what type questions you decide to ask your customers is important.  Along with that, the “how, when and how often” questions are just as important. But, the most critical piece of this program has to be what you do with the answers.

There are many ways to reach your customers and to ask them if they are satisfied with your company, your products, and the service they receive: 

  • Focus groups: bring customers in for round table discussions; Q&A
  • Include a brief survey tool on your website
  • Call them on the phone directly or mail a questionnaire
  • Email a questionnaire or a link to an online portal

Once you decide who you are going to contact and how you plan to reach them, you need to figure out the best time to do this.  Is it right after an order is completed?  Is it on a scheduled basis (annually or quarterly)?  Is it when you haven’t heard from them lately after consistently purchasing from you in the past?  There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on what you trying to accomplish at the time and what data you wish to collect. 

The single question everyone should include is: “Will you work with us again?”  Sure, it’s really useful to ask other questions while you have their attention but you need to know if they’re interested still.

In a recent survey that I’d sent to IT customers through Survey Monkey, with the primary goal of finding out if our company’s monthly e-newsletter was useful to their business, I included a question on their preferred method of communication, with drop down options of: By Phone, In Person, By Email, By Mail, or via Social Media.  And, while this is not an indication of how your customers’ list will respond, 92.1% preferred email and amazingly 0% chose social media. While this wasn’t the primary focus of the aforementioned survey on our e-newsletter’s importance, I did learn an eye-opening fact on their preferred means of communication. 

This survey went to 535 IT customers, had 77 responses (46 anonymous and 31 with contact information provided) which indicated that the e-newsletter was read by 74% of the responders, with 58.8% of those saying they read it often.  So 58.4% were “highly satisfied” and 28.5% were “satisfied” and would do business with us again. Thus 83.8% were interested in our network security while 66.1% in disaster recovery.

Using the results

Using the results is really the most important part of the equation. You’ll need to efficiently compile received answers, look for trends and vital information, and prepare your analysis with comparisons of regions, products and of course, the contact information of the persons surveyed. Also, note any negative response, inquiries or complaints that need immediate action.  You should investigate and make changes to fix any problems.  If you have allowed for anonymous replies in the past (from the company not a person), make an effort to give all responses truly heartfelt consideration.  It’s the only metric you can rely on for continued improvement in your customer satisfaction index.  If a customer is upset and provides their contact information for a reply, it should be escalated to top management so as to reach out to that customer for a discussion.  Dedicated efforts that lead to satisfied customers is proven to be a leading indicator of repurchase and customer lifetime value. A good rating provides a unique value proposition, and everyone knows that retaining a customer is of greater value than acquiring net new. 

My favorite question to include is an open ended question on what the customer is most concerned about in the future.  I included a question like this in the e-newsletter survey (that only contained 5 total questions) and from that was able to have a discussion with our sales team about the services that ranked highest from this survey (remember 83.8% mentioned earlier?). This gave us the opportunity to review our sales strategies and marketing programs to mirror what the customers indicated they need.  You may think you know, your industry may think they know … but until you ask your customers, you could be just making assumptions.  A few simple tips  -- be very clear in your questions so they know what you mean,  be specific and avoid general concepts, and keep the survey short.  Your response rates will go down if you ask too many questions and the survey is confusing or a burden. 

A 2008 customer satisfaction report by Accenture found that price was not the main reason for customer churn, but it was actually due to overall poor quality of customer service.   When you create an amazing customer experience, you create an environment where satisfaction is high and your customer will be your advocate and brand champion. 

An often overlooked part of the customer satisfaction equation is the responsibility.  Who is going to do this for you, how much time will it require, how often will metrics and reports be shared with management, and what is the escalation path for problematic responses.  Customer satisfaction needs to be a priority and an on-going process.  One and done will not provide the information that you really need to grow and improve.  The person analyzing the data needs to understand customer expectations and how that affects customer answers.  A direct question about a product or technology service will give you a very different analysis than a question on interpersonal expectations.  Your survey process will be most beneficial if it’s ongoing and evolves as you comparatively measure results and make changes to improve the customer experience.

About the Author: Kathy Vogler

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