John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


Do You Know What Your Customers Want From You?

Darlene Campagna

Knowing what your customers truly think is critical to keeping your customers– and keeping your profits.  While companies invest heavily in sales and customer service, too often they cut corners and leave the very important task of understanding what will create loyal, happy customers to an insufficient or informal collection process.  By identifying the needs, wants, and expectations of your customers, your business is able to maximize customer satisfaction and retention.

However, the idea of implementing a customer satisfaction and follow-up initiative may seem like a daunting task to many.  In order to implement a successful customer satisfaction program, it is first important to understand your goals and objectives for this initiative.

Begin by asking yourself the following questions.  The concept of the question format below may be a simple approach, but your responses will begin to provide direction, and will shape your customer satisfaction initiative goals and objectives.

What:

First and foremost, understand what decisions this information will drive within your business.  Understanding this will help you determine “what to ask” on your survey.  Will you use this information to track operational issues for improvement?  Do you want to know what your customers think you do well and use this for marketing purposes?  Do you want to know the satisfaction or loyalty of your customers?  Are you going to measure performance of your employees and use this information as a means to bonus them?  Understanding what you want your company to achieve will help you understand what your company needs to measure.

Who:

Consider who you may want to survey.  For example, do you want to gather feedback from all of your new customers to determine their satisfaction levels with their initial experience?  Or do you want to survey your existing customers and gauge their satisfaction by product or service type?  Perhaps you would like to reach out to inactive customers to determine reasons for inactivity.  You can create a program that surveys “all of the above” as well, but understanding whom you want to hear from is an important step that shapes the whole program.

Where:

Do you want to measure results based upon where your business is located or where your customers are located?  For example, tracking results based upon department or branch will provide insight as to how locations are performing in comparison to each other.  This will allow you to focus improvement efforts on underperforming locations.

When:

When should you survey your customers?  Based upon the information you are looking to gain and the frequency of your business transactions, it may make sense to conduct a “transactional survey.”   This type of survey will evaluate specific key attributes of the customer experience that can be monitored to determine their impact on satisfaction and loyalty, as well as the impact of operational changes you may implement over time.  Conducting a “relationship survey” is typically done on an annual basis and allows you to dig deeper into the relationship as well as to evaluate value and expectations in comparison to overall performance.  Determining your customers’ expectations vs. your performance will identify “gaps” which can be addressed having immediate impact with the retention and loyalty of your customer.

Why:

Understand why, as an organization, you want to implement this program.  This is a very important key element to a successful customer satisfaction and follow-up initiative.  Once a determination has been made to implement this initiative, it has to be communicated and supported from the top of the management team down to all employees on a consistent basis.  If the management team does not visibly support this initiative or “walk the talk,” your employees won’t either.  This should become a part of your corporate culture.

How:

Determine how are you going to respond or follow-up with your customers.  If you plan to implement a customer satisfaction initiative, then it is critical to establish your response or follow-up system as well.  Based  upon the volume of surveys you conduct, you may opt for an automated system which can track issues, identify trends and document steps taken to “fix” the situation and “close the loop” with your customer.  A more manual tracking and follow-up process can be utilized; however, the key here is consistency!  Identify the internal champion who will be responsible for sustaining this system and make that person a part of the process that will ensure their buy-in and your success.  There is nothing worse than capturing customer issues or concerns and not doing anything with that information.

Other considerations:  Start small and grow with it.  As tempting as it may be to want to gather feedback from every customer, do not feel as if you have to conquer everything at one time.  Pick a segment to survey, implement your process, evaluate your results and work out any snags you may have with your process and systems first.  Then you can add on from there.  The most effective customer satisfaction programs measure results on a continuous basis and help organizations do a better job of building better, more customer-centric companies.

Darlene Campagna is the CEO of DIRECT OPINIONS, A Customer Experience Management Company. E MAIL DCampagna@DirectOpinions.com   |   www.DirectOpinions.com

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