has happened to customer satisfaction? We keep hearing that it is
much more difficult to get new customers than to keep the ones we have,
but after years of downsizing, customer satisfaction seems to be at a
new low. "Getting things done" has replaced
"getting things done RIGHT." Customer service is
expected to correct the deficiencies, but the customer service agents that are
left are often poorly trained and underpaid. Customers react the
only way they know. They shop on price and then expect
universally poor service.
continuing, we don't want you to get the wrong impression. We are
not advocating a simple solution that adds training and pay to fix things that should have been done
correctly in the first place. Also,
we believe that many customers prefer to help themselves, if they can,
before asking for help.
many companies have been forced to cut expenses that
provided superior customer service and
support. Now, as business increases, differentiators that can even offset product
deficiencies are no longer available and customer satisfaction suffers.
Is it time to build customer satisfaction back into the fabric of
your business? If you
believe that it is, please read on. If you already make some
type of customer satisfaction measurements or have concerns, you have a
head start. Leverage this commitment and benefit by making
enhancements to whatever has already been accomplished.
Benefits to Expect
Our approach to
customer satisfaction is different from many we have seen,
especially those that provide mere lip service to the subject.
Besides making happy customers, we believe that customer satisfaction
needs to translate into greater sales and profits. Here are some
examples of benefits that should be expected.
What not to do
We have seen
companies start with grandiose plans and pronouncements about improving
customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, after building customer expectations,
follow through was left to chance and the hype only served to build customer
frustration rather than satisfaction. It is much better to do
nothing than to consciously or unconsciously fool the customer.
Instead, why not use customer satisfaction as an advantage that becomes
a sales tool. We recommend following a process that has worked well for
Do this . .
. . it really works!
customers starts with a strong commitment from upper management.
In the short term, even advertising a commitment to customer
satisfaction is important. It can buy time until plans are ready to
begin identifying and addressing real issues. It is also important
to remind all employees that their future depends on customer loyalty
and retention. Each individual has an impact that
contributes to the overall experience customers have with a company and
satisfaction programs grow and evolve iteratively. Ultimately,
these programs should grow to interact with all of the customer touch points.
Use of Customer Relationship Management software should also be
However, begin by crafting a program
that will be more affordable, yet will make a difference and improve
communications in the process. For starters, we recommend the
- Assign responsibilities.
Everyone in the organization needs to play a role. A delegate
of the president or chief executive officer should direct, manage,
and coordinate the project on a regular basis.
- Collect and analyze results.
Start by asking the right questions, ones that will uncover issues
with sufficient details to develop actionable improvements.
Use surveys, interviews, focus groups. Carefully summarize,
analyze and interpret the results. Assure that money won't be used to merely create binders of tabular
data that lack specifics and sit unopened on executive bookshelves. It takes
time to do a thorough job. Don't rush the process and the
packaging. Before delving into the details, executive
presentations that employ creative graphics to highlight
and address the salient points. Take
care about data security. It is important to
organize information in a way that sensitive details will only be
released on a needs-to-know basis
and will be suited to the needs and expertise of the audience. Not too many companies would be happy if a binder of
their customer satisfaction data got into the hands of a
competitor. Careful packaging will help.
- Socialize survey findings.
Again, involve the whole organization in the process. Share details
on a needs-to-know basis, but also describe highlights of you program in
employee and customer newsletters and other marketing collaterals.
Even involve the media, but please remember that anything
released in print, especially outside of your company, needs to be
more general in nature. Details can be discussed with customers in
personal meetings with sales personnel if they are suitably trained.
It can be a great opportunity to collect additional details from customers
about their earlier input. Make sure that a
process is in place to communicate any additional feedback back to
those responsible for making changes to business processes and
products and services.
- Develop and track corrective
actions. Operating units need to take ownership of
their items and create and implement plans for corrective
actions. Changes need to be carefully integrated with other
business improvements, e.g., cost reduction and cost avoidance
- Follow up regularly. Keep
the team informed and have sales provide feedback to customers on a
- Start the loop again.
Once changes have been implemented, it is time to restart the
process. With the new starting point, see how the customer feels both about
progress since the last survey. Ask them how you compare to competitors and
how you score in absolute terms.
A well-planned, well-run customer
satisfaction program will have a major impact on any business. It
can help eliminate customer issues, but also shows that a company
really cares. It becomes part of what a company is
noted for. When treated well, customers frequently reciprocate by not only buying more,
but also helping a company with new ideas for products and services
and suggestions for ways to do things more effectively and efficiently. If you don't
have a customer satisfaction program, consider starting
one. We believe you will be glad you did. Be sure to create
an on-going process that includes these five elements . . . . .
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION -
A PRIMARY, UNIFYING ELEMENT THAT BRINGS TOGETHER THE ENTIRE COMPANY
IMPROVEMENT . . . .
service for technology businesses from Rockwood Management Services