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Implementing for change

01 Feb 10

Customer satisfaction is about the long-term health and profitability of your business.
In the last two issues we covered why it is important to listen to your customers, and how to get  feedback and analyse the data.
Many believe that you have to have a formalised survey to get a view of how your company is performing. Well, you don’t. As I discussed in my previous columns, there are many ways to get feedback.
And once you have some customer feedback, you need to make sense of it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you and  your business. It is all very well having information and feedback, but if you do nothing with it, it is just a distraction and a worthless experience for your customers. Remember, your aim is to improve the value you offer your customers.
Firstly you need to cluster your responses into the Berry (Bart Allen) and Brodeur themes discussed in December’s column. These are the 10 ‘quality values’ that influence satisfaction behaviour: quality, value, timeliness, efficiency, ease of access, environment, inter-departmental teamwork, front line service behaviours, commitment to the customer, and innovation. Using these themes as a guideline may help you with your clustering.
Remember, don’t have too many key challenges or themes; start with one or two. Now you need to determine who within your company can best help to create a ‘correction plan’ or ‘improvement plan’. Think broadly: for example if you have a challenge regarding the quality of your service team, include in your virtual team and anyone that interacts internally with your service team or the customers they are dealing with (service team manager, service team representative, sales people, administration people, warehouse manager, and receptionist). Each will contribute a different perspective.
More often than not, the failure comes down to a process challenge. So this broader team is essential to ensure a robust debate and will support a well rounded resolution.
Get a rhythm of meetings going. I would suggest weekly to start with, but once you have your plan underway you may move them to bi-weekly or monthly. If you do not have defined actions and timelines, and make people accountable, nothing will get completed. Try something simple like the table pictured below. 
Also, remember that there may be five improvement actions against one key challenge. Ensure that you encourage and celebrate when these actions are ticked off the list and you see the results.
It is also important to take the customers on the journey with you. Don’t leave them thinking, “I answered that survey but have heard nothing further.” Remember to include your key themes in your customer newsletter and periodically update them with your progress. This does two things. Firstly, it shows that you are very serious about customer satisfaction and that you appreciate their candid responses. Secondly, it also shows that you have taken them very seriously and have an action plan to improve things.
By now it should be clear why customer satisfaction is important and why you should care. Across many industries it’s not just about competing on price. Successful companies need to have a better quality of service than their competitors, especially if, no matter how you try, your products may not always be perfect and let you down. In this case, what can you offer that your competitors can’t? Usually it’s service.
Service and customer satisfaction need to be in your business DNA, whether you are a small, medium or larger organisation. Customer satisfaction is in your hands.

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