How satisfied are your customers? Are they as satisfied with your product or service as they were at this time last year? How does your level of customer satisfaction compare with that of your top competitors?
How do you know?
This is no time for gut instincts or good old-fashioned guessing. You need data. You need to know. The success of your company depends on it.
Satisfied customers are closely associated with strong brands, and strong brands are closely associated with customer loyalty and profitability. Research by Bail & Company (published in Harvard Business Review, 2001) found that an increase of 5 percent in customer retention can increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent for many companies.
In addition, customers really do want to be heard. In the past, there has been a perception that those who take the time to complete a customer satisfaction survey are those who are chronic complainers. According to research conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, consumers say they participate in customer service surveys because they really believe they are being heard.
In a recent survey of about 1,400 consumers, more than 25 percent said they completed a survey in the past year, and more than half of them (57 percent) said they did it to share a good experience. Half said they participated because they thought their input could help improve the company.
Response rates and reasons differ along gender lines. Women are more likely to participate in customer satisfaction surveys to share positive experiences, while men are slightly more likely to say they completed the survey to improve the company.
That’s some pretty powerful brand engagement. There are a lot of ways to build relationships with customers, and listening is at the core of most of them. Customer satisfaction surveys are a very basic form of listening, and one that requires companies to be responsive.
Successful customer satisfaction surveying programs are credible enough that employee performance and compensation can be attached to the final results, and are designed to generate actionable reports for management.
As you design your customer satisfaction survey program, three basic questions need to be answered:
Make sure you are only gathering relevant and important information that is actionable. There is no point in asking customers about an aspect of a product that won’t or can’t be changed regardless of the feedback.
Stay focused on what is really important to your company. You’re asking your customers to give up their time on your behalf. Keep the survey as short and focused as possible.
Customer satisfaction surveys provide powerful opportunities to build your brand relationships. It’s a way to better understand what your customers expect from you, and how well you’re meeting those expectations.
Customer satisfaction research results make for great discussion topics with customers. They want to know that the time they invested in completing your survey was time well spent. They took the time to participate in your research because they want to help improve the company. That’s why it’s so important that you take the time to tell them what you heard, what you’re doing about it, and that you’re grateful for their input.
Following up with customers closes the feedback loop and makes research one more aspect of an ongoing conversation that engages and benefits everyone involved.
This column originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.