There are a great many reasons why organisations choose to survey their customers - so before spending a fortune on research it is important to first ask a question of yourself. “What am I trying to achieve with my customer survey?”
Your answer to this question can have a huge impact on deciding what to ask your customers and how to analyse the results.
- If you are looking for an indication of customer advocacy, based on: their experience doing business with you, your position in the market, your products and service portfolio, and any number of other variables that may influence their answer - then you can possibly get-away with just them one question – “Would you recommend our company to others?”
- Or, if you are looking for an overall satisfaction score to use as a way to substantiate a marketing or branding message, then if you simply ask your customers “How satisfied are you with our products and services”, and then adopt a generous analytical approach to presenting the results you may get the result you are looking for.
- On the other hand, (and I really hope you’re still with me here because this is where you can make a huge difference to the success of your organisation) if you are seeking feedback from your customers to identify the problems they may have experienced with your products or services, and the actions you need to take to improve; and if you would like to quantify the impact of those issues on your organisation’s bottom line, and prioritise the actions you will take to address those issues – well, you are going to need to adopt a more robust and comprehensive survey methodology.
Done correctly, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be more expensive. In fact - far from it. This approach will normally provide you with a positive ROI.
By identifying and addressing the problems your customer experience you can typically get multiple benefits. You can:
- Reduce the number of customer complaints
- Make it easier for your customers and staff to do business
- Increase the likelihood that they’ll keep on doing business with you
- Increase the good things they say about you to others
- Reduce the cost of doing business
Anyway, back to the question of questions. The questions should be relevant to the customer’s experience, comprehensive in terms of their relationship with you or the interaction they have had with you, and yield results at the level at which you can take remedial actions.
The questions you ask should directly relate to key parameters of the service process that the customer experienced, and ones where you have influence to improve.
For example: questions about the timeliness of the service engineer’s arrive, the speed resolving the problem, advice provided on how the problem might be avoided in future etc.
To identify management actions and set priorities you’ll also need to measure the performance of each of these parameters and the impact that each has on overall advocacy and loyalty to your company.
Where we have worked with organisations to adopt these performance management methods there have been real and measurable improvements for their businesses and secondary benefits from the improved morale of managers and staff as their workload becomes less cluttered solving problems.
So, don’t ask your customers questions to get the answers you want to hear - ask them the questions that will help your business succeed.
About the author: Paul Linnell
Paul Linnell is a service improvement champion, working internationally with senior managers and their teams to help them achieve business success, reduce risk and build customer loyalty and advocacy by improving service to customers. Paul specialises in the design and deployment of customer experience measurement, service quality improvement, complaints handling and preventive analysis programmes. For most of his career he has worked in Europe and North America and for the past 10 years Paul has been based in New Zealand, continuing to serve clients globally.