Tips on Measuring Customer Satisfaction

Published: 03rd May 2011
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Keeping your clients satisfied is one of the most important pillars to a profitable business and as such is a regular topic of discussion on sales training courses. In order to achieve real client satisfaction and superior client relations you need to constantly analyse your relationship with your buyers. The ultimate aim of a client satisfaction analysis is to provide answers the following key questions.

How satisfied are your clients, overall, with your performance? What does customer satisfaction mainly depend on? What does it depend on less? What ideas do you have to increase customer satisfaction? Which of your competitors do your customers think are particularly exemplary?

Measuring customer satisfaction is a multi-step process. You usually start with a definition of your target group. To do this, customers are categorized into groups. For example a differentiation according to job function could include the following groups: buyers, sales engineers, technical planners, factory managers, quality controllers.

It is important to know which group is being surveyed as different groups may assess your performance differently. For example, the client satisfaction measurement of a printing press manufacturer shows how different the degree of client satisfaction can be in the function areas. In a survey only 52% of standards and quality assurance specialists were satisfied but 96% of buyers were satisfied. This company therefore introduced a series of internal sales training seminars to raise awareness of the issues identified to focus on improving its service to the standards and quality assurance specialists.

When deciding who to survey a basic distinction also has to be made between asking your existing customers, surveying former clients, as well as asking for feedback from clients of your current competitors. As well as defining the target groups, you need to determine the performance components that are to be analysed. Some performance factors may be common to all groups surveyed, whilst others may be group specific.

The next step involves deciding on the survey method. Whether this is over the phone, written or in person depends on costs and situation. If you need to carry out a quick customer survey, it is probably best to do this over the telephone. If the interviews are going to be longer and with a smaller target group, then personal interviews are the best.

A core problem of any written questionnaire is the number of responses you get. You can, however, do a lot to increase participation.

Show real interest. Make it obvious to the customer that your company wants to seriously discuss their ideas and use them to improve its performance. A pre-questionnaire letter from company management before sending off the actual questionnaire demonstrates interest.

Keep the expenditure down. A simple questionnaire (which takes ten to fifteen minutes to fill in) with simple questions, a clear structure and good layout increases the client's acceptance.

Show persistence. Following up your questionnaires (in writing, sending the questionnaire again, maybe even over the phone if the client has not replied) considerably improves the reply rate.

Practice individuality. It helps a lot if the letter which accompanies the questionnaire is fully personalised. In the age of database marketing, "Dear Sir/Madam" is no longer acceptable.

Care also needs to be taken over writing the right type of survey question to produce the information you need. The following examples show how your survey questions can be formulated.

The answers to closed questions such as "How satisfied are you with the honouring of delivery times?" can be guided by providing a response scale for customers to select from, such as 5 = very satisfied, 1 = very unsatisfied. This approach in surveys is common because it makes it easy to report average survey results per question and track changes in mean responses over time.

Benchmarking questions such as "Can you spontaneously think of any competitor that you think is particularly exemplary when it comes to sales work?" can have just a simple yes/no response choice, again making them easy to analyse. However, providing a space for the respondent to add additional details, such as the company name in this example, allows you to gather useful market data.

Open questions, such as "What additional criticisms or suggested improvements do you have for our sales team?" whilst useful for gathering ideas, can be difficult to analyse because there is no standardization of the answer.

Whatever customer satisfaction survey techniques you decide to use it is important that you continue to gather data systematically over a period of time. This will permit changes, both good and bad, to be identified early on and acted upon. Methods for managing your customers to ensure they are satisfied is covered on good sales training courses.


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Richard Stone is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that specialises in running management and sales training courses to improve business performance. Richard provides consultancy advice for numerous world leading companies.

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