Satisfied customers usually return. They tell other people about you. They may pay a premium. Statistics suggest that the cost of keeping a customer is only one tenth of winning a new one. So once you find a customer, it is worth hanging onto them.
When undertaking customer satisfaction research, there are six considerations:
- Who should be interviewed?
- What should be measured?
- How should the interview be carried out?
- How should satisfaction be measured?
- What do the measurements mean?
- How should the customer satisfaction survey be used to greatest effect?
Choosing who to interview
Your first-in line customer is an obvious candidate – as are other channel customers. Lost or potential -as well as lapsed customers – are good benchmark data on your competition too.
Deciding what to measure
Respondents are interviewed on isues showing how your company is performing and how it can improve, both at a high level ‘how satisfied are you overall?’ and at a specific level ‘how satisfied are you with the clarity of invoices?’
The specific level can be challenging but customer facing staff can help – they understand the issues and terminology. The information may be biased, but it will raise the main customer issues. By cross checking the internal views with a small number of customer depth interviews, a list of attributes can be selected.
Selecting an interview method
We measure customer satisfaction by face to face interview, or a postal questionnaire preceded by a telephone interview to collect data and seek co-operation.
Determining a measure of satisfaction
Satisfied customers usually say nothing, but return to buy more. In open-ended questioning, they tend to respond with anecdotes, using terminology like: delighted, extremely satisfied.
Collecting open-ended responses is problematical in large surveys, so we ask people to describe a company using verbal or numeric scales with words that measure attitudes – scales of 5, 7 or 10 are typically used. We measure the importance customers attach to the different attributes. This can be challenging – buyers do not spend their time rationalizing – they may not admit, even to themselves, the complex issues in the buying decision. Derived importance is calculated by correlating the satisfaction levels of each attribute with the overall level of satisfaction. Where there is a high link or correlation, the attribute is driving customer satisfaction. Deriving the importance of attributes can show the influence of softer issues, such as the friendliness of the staff or the power of the brand.
Using the satisfaction scores
Scores are used to create a customer satisfaction index (CSI). The average or mean score of satisfaction given to each attribute provides a league table of strengths and weaknesses.
Some researchers prefer to concentrate on ‘top box’ responses – scores of 4 or 5 out of 5, believing high scores are required to create genuine satisfaction and loyalty. If suppliers fail to achieve them, customers readily switch in search of higher standards.
We must segment our customers, not try to satisfy everyone. What matters is achieving high scores in those segments in which we play. High scores from around a half to two thirds of targeted customers on issues that are important to them should be the aim. Plotting customer satisfaction scores against the importance score shows where the strengths and weaknesses lie.
A company cannot truly satisfy its customers unless top management is fully behind the program.
Views change continuously, so measuring satisfaction should be continuous. The surveys must show real differences, the questionnaire should be consistent, the sample should always be large enough to provide a reliable base, and the selection of the sample must mirror earlier surveys to compare like with like.
Research should improve customer satisfaction – not sit collecting dust. Customers have given their time, expecting improvements. There will be quick fixes – creating a newsletter or a hot-line for information – but longer-term cultural changes may be required. If so, a five-step process can be used.