Getting great customer feedback

 

Getting great customer feedback

Getting great customer feedback 

When it comes to customer satisfaction there are a couple of hard truths: 

  • Defecting customers cost huge sums of money 

  • It costs a lot less to keep a customer than it does to find a new one  

So, how do you capitalise on this and how do you catch them before they defect…well it’s a good idea to regularly assess what they think of you! But how do you do that easily and effortlessly?  Well, that's what we're going to explore!   

However, it ought to be said that assessing satisfaction, which is usually scored in some way, makes it hard because my 5 out 10 might be your 8 out of 10 and my assessment of a service today might be different tomorrow simply because of my mood and absolutely nothing to do with the service that was actually provided.  In short, it’s hard because getting customer feedback can be very variable.  

It’s also hard because with the rise of TripAdvisor style ratings and the associated use of things like AI, customer satisfaction and feedback is an increasingly complex arena.  

However, what we're trying to do here is to get good and useful feedback quickly and easily. 

So, getting great customer feedback might be hard but in order to survive and thrive it's essential.  And we are going use a seven stage process to answer two key questions: 

  • What are the stages in getting good customer feedback? 

  • What are some quick and dirty tools we can use? 

The seven stages are:  

  1. Define your goals  

  1. Choose your approach  

  1. Determine who should complete the survey  

  1. Develop the survey  

  1. Deliver the survey  

  1. Analyse and communicate the results  

  1. Take the necessary action  

Let's tackle the stages one at a time … 

Define your goals 

Obviously, there are a number of primary reasons for undertaking customer surveys. It might be that you are suffering some customer attrition, you might need to find out why your competitors are somehow getting ahead of you, you might need to identify specific dissatisfied customers or staff who are providing poor customer service, you might need to tease out opportunities to better support your customers or you might simply want to promote a new service. 

Regardless of the primary reason we’d always advocate a secondary one which would be to use the initiative to drive additional sales.  

Choose your approach 

There are a number of different types of surveys, and no unanimous agreement on which is best, but a few popular methods are: 

  • Our very simple solution  

  • The customer satisfaction score  

  • The customer effort score  

  • The Net Promoter score   

Our very simple solution  

If your company hasn't really undertaken any formal assessment of customer satisfaction before there's not usually any point in creating complex and sophisticated methodologies for gaining this type of information, in fact, quite the reverse.  

In these instances, we often ask just two questions: 

  • What did we do well? 

  • What could we do better? 

That's it!  It really doesn't need to be any more sophisticated than that, those two simple questions can provide a goldmine of information. 

However, the people you are courting are already customers, you have gained their trust, they know you, so, if you want to get slightly more sophisticated and get feedback from them on other products and services that they might be looking for … and that you might be able to provide, simply ask a third question: 

  • What else could we do for you?  

In fact, when we first started many years ago these were the only questions we used to ask our clients and asking that third question of just one particular client took us into a whole new sector of support for them which now represents about 25% of our business.  

More sophisticated methods include:  

The Customer Satisfaction Score 

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is the most commonly used satisfaction method. You simply ask your customers to rate their satisfaction on some form of scale.  Essentially, you'd ask a series of questions (more on the questions later) along the lines of:  

Please rate the quality of service you received from {your company name} 

  • Poor  

  • Fair  

  • Great  

  • Excellent  

The Customer Effort Score 

The customer effort score is also interesting because one of the best ways to increase customer loyalty, and to reduce frustration, is to make the user experience simpler and easier.  So, the Customer Effort Score (CES) is very similar to the customer satisfaction score, but instead of asking how satisfied the customer was, you ask them to gauge the effort they had to use as a result of their interaction with you.  An example might be: 

Overall, how easy was it to solve your problem with {your business name} today / as part of your last purchase?  

  • Very difficult  

  • Difficult  

  • Easy  

  • Very easy  

You'll notice that in both the above examples we've only used an even number of categories, most surveys use an odd number but that allows customers to plump for the easy, non-committal, middle ground answer.  An even number of categories forces them to make a decision that falls either side of the good or bad line. 

Net Promoter score 

There is a fantastic tool called The Net Promoter Score.   It is one of the simplest and most universally applied customer satisfaction assessment methodologies.  It was developed by a guy called Fred Reichheld and was first published in a Harvard Business Review article "The One Number You Need to Grow".  We like it because there's been a lot of research that correlates the NPS score to revenue growth.   

NPS asks just one simple question which is marked out of 10 : 

  • "How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?" 

The answers to which are then categorised as follows: 

  • Scores of 9 or 10 are Promoters 

  • Scores of 7 or 8 are referred to as Passives 

  • Scores of 6 or below are Detractors 

The overall NPS score is then calculated by subtracting the percentage detractors from the percentage promotors.  As a result, the NPS can range between −100 (all respondents are "Detractors") and +100 (all respondents are "Promoters").   

Scores can vary substantially between industries but a positive score is generally taken to be a good indication of satisfaction and … growth potential. 

Additionally, whichever survey method is chosen, in order to drive additional sales, we’d always recommend adding one or two open-ended questions, like those detailed in our simple solution above.  As with open-ended questions there is significantly more chance of being able to establish "why" any dissatisfaction is occurring.  Also, the answers to these questions often provide a useful springboard to any solutions required. 

Determine who should complete the survey  

Years ago we worked with another consultant who had been appointed to undertake a customer survey for a lift company client of ours.  This lift company had three divisions, one for new installations, another for lift maintenance and a third division for lift repairs.  Some clients were common to all three divisions, but many were not; builders and property developers are only interested in installing new lifts and are not interested in having lifts maintained.   Once the building is built, it's someone else's problem.  The consultant hadn't taken these differences into consideration so in many instances was asking irrelevant questions.  The results were a disaster, and the initiative made the company look incompetent.  

 You need to ask the right questions of the right people.  

 It might also be useful to give some thought to the number of customers you want to survey. If you have a few key accounts, you may want to survey each of them. If you have multiple customers, it might be better to simply select a sample.  Also, you may want to hear from different individuals undertaking different roles at the same customer; the sales team may well have a different opinion to the operational team or the finance team. Feedback from individuals other than your direct contact may reflect problems that you don’t know about. 

So in thinking about who should complete the survey consideration should be given to: 

  • The types of products and services that purchased  

  • The different customer groupings / sectors and their needs and expectations  

  • The different roles undertaken by different people in the host organisation 

 Develop the survey

You have now decided on the objective, selected the relevant method and the people you wish to target.  It’s now time to draft the survey. You’ll need to formulate questions whose answers will help you decide what needs to be changed to achieve your objectives. The following might help, questions might be asked about: 

  • Products: current features, required features, availability, quality, reliability, durability, documentation clarity / adequacy, product variety, safety, packaging, convenience and, of course, price. 

  • Service: speed of response, quality of response, delivery response, technical support, problem solving, promises kept, product usefulness. 

  • Staff: appearance, friendliness, courtesy, competence, accessibility, attention, care, flexibility, understanding of customer needs, professionalism, effective use of time. 

  • Customer feelings: appreciated, valued, cherished, respected, unloved, needs and desires met 

  • Company perception: confidence, trust, honesty, affection, efficiency, innovativeness, brand quality.  One of our clients, an architect, on completion of all projects sends a postcard to all of the professional team involved in the project and asks them to rate the architectural team against their stated values.  They get great feedback which they link back to their quarterly plan. 

 

In working through the above, you will inevitably create a list of questions far larger than you'd want to share and survey, so, the next step is to trim the list to just those significant issues that you want to work on to increase customer loyalty or attract new customers. 

Finally, in developing the survey remember that it is at this stage you need to decide how the results will be analysed.  If you leave it until you've got the results that will be too late. 

Deliver the survey

Delivering the survey will be different for companies with different numbers of clients.   

Obviously, you can be more personal if you only have a small number of clients, say, less than a couple of hundred, as you could call them in advance of the survey to get their commitment.  This will let them know how important their feedback is and it will avoid irritating clients who are not interested in providing feedback.  This approach obviously becomes more difficult if you've got many hundreds, or even thousands, of clients but with larger volumes of data it is significantly easier “smooth” any responses. 

Also, if you don't get the result you need or want, don’t give up, you could combine it with some form of competition, incentive or give away or consider supplementing the survey in another medium, for example by asking questions by telephone, placing a survey link as a footer in your email or even providing a link to a specific Web page. 

Analyse and communicate the results

The data is now in, the survey has been undertaken you need to compile, analyse and communicate the results. 

The first people that need to know about the findings are the staff, as they need to know that obtaining and retaining customers is the lifeblood of the organisation, so having satisfied customers is essential for surviving and thriving.  

Next is obviously the customers, and communicating survey results, and the resulting action that you intend to take is critical.  If you want to continue to receive feedback from your customers and they don't feel the results get the proper attention, they'll be very reluctant to provide you with feedback in the future.  

Take the necessary action 

Obviously key to the whole affair is taking action on the issues raised, if you get the information back but take no action that's criminal.  A waste of everyone's time and effort. 

But taking the action is also an opportunity to engage and court clients.  Depending on the scale of the action required let them know what you're doing and shout about any milestones along the way, the implementation plan also provides another opportunity to refresh your connection with your clients.  

Conclusion 

Happy customers are the lifeblood of an organisation and report after report, paper after paper suggests that:  

  1. A huge amount of money is lost from defecting customers  

  1. It costs significantly more to find new clients than it does to keep existing clients  

Once you've won a customer you want to keep them. 

And in order to keep them, and keep them satisfied, you need to know what they think. Some kind of customer survey is critical to help your organisation survive and thrive. 


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• Better strategies
• Better systems
• Better measurement and 
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• Better results

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