Business viewpoint: How to design successful customer satisfaction program
BY AMBER REMKE Business Viewspoint
Thursday, September 13, 2012
9/13/12 at 3:34 AM
Providing an exceptional customer experience has never been more important than it is today. With increasingly fierce market competition, providing consistent, positive service to your customers could mean the difference between success and failure. After all, loyal customers generally continue to do business with companies that provide an outstanding experience.
But what's the best way to measure customer satisfaction? How do you know whether your company is meeting or exceeding customers' expectations, or where to make improvements?
Creating a successful customer satisfaction strategy starts at the top of the organization. The most well-designed program will fall short of expectations if the C-suite isn't open to feedback and making significant changes to the business's operations, if necessary. This type of culture is not built overnight, and it begins with the CEO and should be inherent in every aspect of the company - especially in those employees interacting directly with clients.
Once your business establishes a customer-centric culture, you can then take steps to develop a program to measure customer satisfaction. Keep in mind this is a process that will ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line, so be prepared to invest time (and possibly money). When designing a successful customer satisfaction program, here are the five biggest mistakes companies make and how to avoid them.
1. Don't consider the end result of the program. You should first answer key questions about the program, including: How do the results get collected and distributed, and to whom? What will the business do with the data? Tying the customer satisfaction program to an organizational strategic plan provides clear targets for satisfaction, steps to meet those targets and how leadership will address any significant areas of dissatisfaction. Taking the time to structure, implement and communicate the program ensures your business will make meaningful decisions with the data collected.
2. Create a useless survey. If creating an effective survey seems daunting, follow the lead of major corporations that have established successful programs. One of the most recognized measurements of customer loyalty is Net Promoter Score (NPS), a concept created by Bain & Company's Fred Reichheld and profiled in his 2006 book, "The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth." In essence, NPS uses a formula based on a scale from one to 10 that measures the likelihood of a respondent recommending a particular business to his or her colleagues. Analyzing this single question produces a score you can easily track over time.
NPS is an efficient customer loyalty measurement, but consider adding questions to the survey that address other categories relevant to your business objectives - including the option to leave open-ended comments - in order to capture specific sentiment data. If you're still unsure about how to best proceed, you can hire a reputable third-party firm with expertise in this area.
3. Disregard basic statistics. Statistical validity sounds complicated, but it comes down to a few basic principles. For example, surveying a portion of the customer base at regular intervals ensures a steady flow of feedback that makes it easier to track trends and spot sudden changes in customer sentiment. And don't haphazardly choose who gets surveyed. Each customer should have an equal opportunity to receive a survey. Taking steps such as maintaining accurate customer data and using a random number generator or formula can eliminate the possibility of selection bias.
4. Ignore social media channels. It's important to use formal feedback methods such as surveys, but don't overlook what customers post informally on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs. Social-media tracking ranges from simple and free tools such as Google Analytics to sophisticated paid monitoring services. Developing a way to code or categorize the data allows you to analyze it along with the formal feedback you collect.
5. Stop at measurement alone. The most effective program is part of a company's overall marketing strategy. Receiving negative feedback is a perfect opportunity to turn a customer's experience around, if addressed quickly enough. Similarly, if a particular area consistently arises as a pain point among customers and the business implements a resolution as a result, communicating that back to your customers shows how their feedback helped improve operations.
Successful companies realize the importance of developing a comprehensive customer satisfaction program, and many now have individuals and departments that focus solely on this area. This might not be possible for some companies due to resource or budget constraints, but it doesn't mean you should ignore customer feedback altogether. Start small, aim for consistency and use the data wisely to continue serving your most important asset - your customers.
Original Print Headline: Create a customer satisfaction strategy
Amber Remke, APR, is executive account manager and director of marketing at Waller & Company Public Relations Inc.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the Tulsa World. To inquire about writing a Business Viewpoint column, email a short outline of the article to Business Editor John Stancavage at email@example.com. The column should focus on a business trend; the outlook for the city, state or an industry; or a topic of interest in an area of the writer's expertise. Articles should not promote a business or be overly political in nature.