Ticking those positive boxes

01 Nov 09

Over the next few months I’m going to share some insights on why customer satisfaction plays such an important role in the long-term health and profitability of your business.

So, why is customer satisfaction important and why should you care? Firstly, across many industries success is not just about competing on price. Successful companies need to have a superior quality of service to their competitors, especially if, no matter how you try, your products may not alwaysbe perfect. What, then, can you offer that your competitors can’t? Usually it’s good service.

How do you start?
The first place you look is internally, within your company.

  • What process do you have currently for monitoring feedback, capturing it and building plans to continuously improve your business?

  • Do you have buy-in from  your internal team no matter what role they play? Do they even hear you talking about it as a major focus, or do you just inherently expect them to understand?

  • Do you reward them for great customer service regularly?

Listening to your customers and vendors and positively owning issues to the conclusion, customer satisfaction is everyone’s role within your company. For example, a great sale can be totally messed up by the wrong instructions/brief going to the service department, etc. Excellent processes internally are as important as a great sales person.

Listening to your customers and vendors
How do you currently listen to your customers and vendors and collect information? Have you looked at the mechanisms you already have? How do you respond to customer queries currently? Do you have a process to respond to customers within a specific time?

Your current listening tools
To get an initial feel for the lie of the land, look at any existing feedback from your customers or vendors. This could be from:

  • Websites/incoming emails

  • Communication vehicles to  customers, eg: newsletters, blogs, twitter feeds, events, etc.

  • Your receptionist (they often  hear first-hand the customer pain)

  • Sales and service teams (review  their account plans; do they have conditions of satisfaction with each account?)

  • The administration team  (they often bear the brunt of a disgruntled customer who is unwilling to pay the bill)

  • Customer surveys.

Consider what more you need to find out about your customers. Is it the experience they’ve had with your company, or is it more about who your customers are and the need to build up a profile? What’s working well or not; are you meeting what’s required under a service level agreement; how well did a specific project go?

Formalised surveys
The next step is to formalise a mechanism to get feedback from your customers and vendors. What will be the easiest process to implement and collect data? Choose one or two to start with. Don’t over-burden yourself or your teams.

Surveys can be structured or unstructured with ad hoc questions, conducted as one- on-ones or in groups, conducted online, over the phone, via hard copy or in person, completed ]anonymously or not. You can rely on your own employees or engage an external third party. Perhaps one of your vendors has   survey tools you can leverage.Do a search for online survey tools and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Consider the audience you want to survey. It may not be your total customer base. Define this up front.

Talking of the respondent remaining anonymous, it has been found that if you allow this option your respondents will feel more inclined to give you honest feedback.

Allowing a free text area for customer comments is also worth doing during survey time, because this allows them to explain in more detail their challenge, rather than just answering yes or no or supplying a rating.

Incentivising response rates
Will you need to incentivise respondents to complete a survey? Often this can increase your response rate. This could take the form of a donation to a New Zealand charity for each response. Frequency of these surveys is also important. To start with I would suggest once a year is sufficient, as this will be manageable by you
and your team. You can of course continue to have regular customer feedback on the completion of projects or via your website, but you need to consider how you pull this data together and how you report on the findings to your internal team.

The structure of surveys and questionnaires is important, as are the types of questions to ask. It is recommended that you keep it brief and a survey should take no more that 10 minutes to complete. Each question should address one issue only and you should not ask leading questions, eg: If you were considering upgrading your infrastructure would you...?

It’s best to keep it simple, using plain English with no double negatives or technical jargon. Remember to consider privacy surrounding the information gathered about customers and individuals.

Great statements to consider
Ask your customers to consider and rate the following using a satisfaction or 1-9 rating:

  • Considering everything you know or have heard about XYZ company, its products, and its

  • service and support organisation, would you say you are…?

  • When I think about quality  and price, XYZ company is great value.

  • XYZ Company is a company I can trust.

  • The solutions that XYZ company has provided are relevant to my needs.

  • The XYZ team helped me get the best out of my solution.

  • If you had to do it all over again, overall how likely would you be to enter into a working relationship with XYZ again?

In summary consider these
four things:

  • What do I already know?

  • What do I want to find out?

  • What vehicles should I use to  canvass for this feedback?

  • What questions should I ask and should I get some help with this?

It may sound a lot to consider, but in reality the rewards are far greater than the effort involved.

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