Why is it that we can think of more examples of companies failing to satisfy us rather than when we have been satisfied? There could be a number of reasons for this. When we buy a product or service, we expect it to be right. We don’t jump up and down with glee saying “isn’t it wonderful, it actually worked”. That is what we paid our money for.
Delighting customers and achieving high customer satisfaction scores in this environment is ever more difficult. And even if your customers are completely satisfied with your product or service, significant chunks of them could leave you and start doing business with your competition.
Direct contact with customers indicates what he is doing right or where he is going wrong. Such informal feedback is valuable in any company but hard to formalise and control in anything much larger than a corner shop. For this reason customer surveys are necessary to measure and track customer satisfaction.
Who Should Be Interviewed?
Some products and services are chosen and consumed by individuals with little influence from others. The choice of a brand of cigarettes is very personal and it is clear who should be interviewed to find out satisfaction with those cigarettes. But who should we interview to determine the satisfaction with milk? Is it the person that buys the milk (usually a parent) or the person that consumes it (often a child)? And what of a complicated buying decision in a business to business situation. Who should be interviewed in a customer satisfaction survey for a truck manufacturer – the driver, the transport manager, the general management of the company? In other b2b markets there may well be influences on the buying decision from engineering, production, purchasing, quality assurance, plus research and development. Because each department evaluates suppliers differently, the customer satisfaction programme will need to cover the multiple views.
What Should Be Measured?
In customer satisfaction research we seek the views of respondents on a variety of issues that will show how the company is performing and how it can improve. This understanding is obtained at a high level (“how satisfied are you the ABC Ltd overall?”) and at a very specific level (“how satisfied are you with the clarity of invoices?”).
High level issues are included in most customer satisfaction surveys and they could be captured by questions such as:
- What is your overall satisfaction with ABC Ltd?
- How likely or unlikely are you to buy from ABC Ltd again?
- How likely or unlikely would you be to recommend ABC Ltd to a friend or colleague?
Working out what questions to ask at a detailed level means seeing the world from the customers’ points of view. What do they consider important? These factors or attributes will differ from company to company and there could be a long list. They could include the following:
|Questionnaire Section||Example of topic questions|
|The product||· Quality of the product
· Length of life of the product
· Design of the product
· Consistency of quality
· Range of products
· Processibility of the product
|Delivery||· Delivery on time
· Speed of delivery
|Staff and service||· Courtesy from sales staff
· Representative’s availability
· Representative’s knowledge
· Reliability of returning calls
· Friendliness of the sales staff
· Complaint resolution
· Responsiveness to enquiries
· After sales service
· Technical service
|The company||· Reputation of the company
· Ease of doing business
· Invoice clarity
· Invoices on time
|Price||· Market price
· Total cost of use
· Value for money
How Should The Interview Be Carried Out?
The tool kit for measuring customer satisfaction boils down to three options, each with their advantages and disadvantages.
|Survey Method||Advantages||Disadvantages||Typical Applications|
|Online surveys / e-mail surveys||· Easy for a DIY researcher to administer
· Low cost
· Respondents can complete in a time to suit them
· Easy to complete rating / scale questions
· Visual explanations can be provided
|· Low response rates
· Poor response to open ended questions
· Misunderstanding of questions can not be rectified by an interviewer
· Attracts response from complainers or the very satisfied
|· Where there is a strong relationship with the subject (eg new car and new home buyer surveys)
· Where there is a strong relationship with the company (key supplier surveys, employee attitude surveys)
· Where people feel obliged to fill it in (eg utilities research)
|Face to face interviews||· Ability to build rapport and hold the respondent longer
· Queries can be answered
· Show cards can be used
· Good response to open ended questions
· Can ask respondent to self complete tedious scalar response
|· Expensive for a geographically dispersed population
· Takes longer to carry out the fieldwork because of the logistics
|· For key customers
· Where customers are tightly grouped geographically
· Where the subject is complicated or lengthy
|Telephone interviews||· Low cost
· High control of interviewer standards
· High control of sample
· Easy to ask for ratings using simple scales
· Quick turnaround of fieldwork
|· Tedious for respondents when there are dozens of attributes to rate
· Some consumers are hard to access by phone
· Cannot show explanatory visuals
|· Used widely in all types of b2b customer surveys|
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