Why Measure Customer Satisfaction?
By Rick Crandall, for Hostedware
Most companies say they believe in great customer service,
but few set up a system to insure that they provide it. Delivering
great service takes both understanding what your customers
want and a way to see that they receive it. Many firms put
effort and expense into areas that clients don't care about.
Those areas that customers rate low and have high impact on
customers are where you will show the biggest gains in improvement.
It is beyond the scope of this article to tell you how to
deliver great service to your customers. However, we can show
you how to find out what your customers think is great service
and why it is worth your while to gather that knowledge.
Delighted Customers Are Profitable
It's widely accepted that it is at least five times more profitable
to sell to an existing customer than to find a new customer.
More important, the difference between satisfied customers
and very satisfied customers can make a big difference in
customer repeat business and your profits. For instance, Xerox
found that customers who rated them a 5 instead of a 4 on
a 5-point satisfaction scale were six times more likely to
buy more products! This means, first, that measuring client
satisfaction is very important, and, second, that distinguishing
between degrees of satisfaction is crucial.
Measuring Customer Satisfaction
There are several ways to gather input from customers. The
simplest way to find out how customers feel and what they
want is to ask them. If you have only 20 clients, you can
talk to each one personally. The advantage of this approach
is that you'll get a personal "feel" for each customer. The
disadvantage is that you'll gather different information from
each customer depending on how the conversation goes.
Focus groups are good ways to get informal input from a group
of customers or prospects. You bring in 5-10 customers or
prospects and ask them questions or have them react to material.
You can pay a professional facilitator and videotape the whole
session, or just lead an informal discussion yourself. In
either case, you have a chance to gather ideas about customer
needs, reactions to your company, suggestions for new services,
and so forth. In addition to individual responses, you get
ideas that develop as the group reacts to each other's responses.
Client Advisory Groups
One way to get regular input from customers is to put together
an advisory group. This can act like a focus group, but is
set up to provide input over time. You may pay members, or
simply buy them dinner every quarter. If you create a good
group, members may also enjoy meeting and interacting with
There are many benefits to such groups. They give you a source
of input from the customer viewpoint. They provide a sounding
board for specific questions. They enhance your relationship
with good customers who become more committed to your success.
And they can move relationships with prospects ahead.
Advisory boards are a much underused way to improve customer
service, develop new services, and encourage repeat business.
Even the smallest businesses can use them effectively.
Customer surveys with standardized questions insure that you
will collect the same information from everyone. The simplest
possible survey is described in the book Marketing Your Services:
For People Who Hate to Sell. The author recommends a three-item
survey, simply asking "What did/do you like about working
with me?", "What did/do you dislike about it?", and "Is there
anything else you can tell me that would help me provide better
service?". Such a brief survey can help open a dialog, but
to collect more detailed information, you need to ask more
Remember that few of your clients will be interested in "filling
out a questionnaire". It's work for them without much reward.
By casting any survey as an attempt to find out "how we can
serve you better" -- in other words as an attempt to improve
customer service --your clients will feel less put upon. And,
as will be discussed further, if you are sincere about making
great service a center point of your firm, your staff will
also feel good about collecting information.
Even for a big survey, you should contact your most important
clients personally. You might do that before contacting others.
Ask for their suggestions. This way, their input can help
you determine what type of questions to ask others. And your
big accounts might be flattered to be asked to help set the
agenda. Have a conversation, not an interrogation. Don't make
them feel like they're filling out a survey.
Up to about 10 minutes of questions can be done on the phone.
By speaking directly with people, you have the flexibility
to talk with them. Again, this is more desirable than a questionnaire,
especially with larger clients. But, of course, it takes more
of your time.
On a longer survey, here are a few of the possible dimensions
you could measure:
- quality of service
- speed of service
- complaints or problems
- trust in your firm members
- closeness of relationship with contacts in your firm
- types of other services needed
- percent of business you receive from your clients
- your positioning in clients' minds
If you're just starting a business, you may want to gather
information about your expected competitors. This can help
you position yourself while you're making initial contact
with prospective clients.
You should involve your staff and clients in designing a
questionnaire. The odds are that once you start discussing
questions with staff and clients, you will come up with more
than you should ask. If you have a big client list and lots
of questions to ask, split your survey. Ask half the questions
to half your clients and half to the other. To get more sophisticated,
randomly assign clients to versions of the questionnaire and
have a few questions that overlap both groups which will give
you an estimate of similarity between the halves (reliability).
You can also share some of the results back with clients,
which allows you to discuss important issues further.
Email / Your Web Site
If you have a simple, brief survey, email can be the way to
go. Clients can either respond directly on a form you provide,
or link to your web site to fill out the survey.
Rick Crandall, PhD (www.rickcrandall.com),
is an author and consultant specializing in sales, marketing,
and customer service for trade associations, the service industries
and professions, and other business groups.
Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software
solutions for research, education and performance improvement.
Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources
professionals, market researchers, education and training
organizations and membership associations worldwide.
to Articles and Publications