Contribution of customer satisfaction surveys to business growth

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The purpose of a survey is to satisfy many requirements, not only in marketing but in school or work too. Surveys are considered as the best possible way of getting a respondent’s review.

There are reasons for this preference. Indeed, surveys have been performed probably since the beginning of trade and commerce. This is common in most businesses.

We all know customer delight is essential to the survival of our businesses. Successful customer satisfaction surveys maximise the retention of current customers and help enterprises better position themselves among prospective clients. How do we find out whether our customers are satisfied? The best way to find out is to ask them. This also applies to internal customer satisfaction surveys as well.

However, customer satisfaction surveys that do not uncover customer perceptions or needs, improve customer loyalty or help the enterprise to make improvements are essentially useless.

Business imperatives

With the rapid development of technology through internet and websites, we are linked to the world. Customers are exposed to a variety of goods and services available. Today’s customers expect more from the enterprise. Customer satisfaction surveys are important vehicles for enterprises, as they measure customer satisfaction and therefore help to determine customer loyalty.

Historical data tracking is crucial in the customer satisfaction survey system. If an enterprise does not manage customer data, it cannot analyse responses over a given time, making it difficult to see if products, services, and/or support are improving, worsening, or remaining stagnant.

Successful customer satisfaction surveys require clear and well-understood processes. In an era of high competition and expectations, customer satisfaction surveys are essential tools for listening to customers about their satisfaction levels, and for developing strategies for improvement.

Now that quality has become a deciding factor in product selection for the customer, knowing what customers think about the enterprise’s product(s), service(s), and/or support, as well as their opinions of competitors’ offerings, is crucial for survival.

If a customer decides what he wants, I don’t have to worry about educating him on the product or service… all I do is just give it to him/her in the way he/she wants it. If I develop a product or service that I think is good for the customer, then I have to put more money and effort behind the idea in educating the customer of my product or service.

Consequently, the primary reasons for assessing customer satisfaction are to maximise customer retention, and to gain and build customer loyalty. Merely satisfied customers will switch to a competitor that will exceed their expectations, especially in a highly competitive market, within the blink of an eye.

True competitive advantage therefore requires that customers are completely satisfied. In addition, it is important to inform customers that their opinions matter and that their responses will instigate change within the organisation.

The best time to conduct a customer satisfaction survey

The best time to conduct a customer satisfaction survey is when the experience is fresh in their minds. If you wait to conduct a survey, the customer’s response may be less accurate. He/she may have forgotten some of the details. S/he may answer about a later event. He/she may colour his/her answers because of confusion with other visits. S/he may confuse you with some other company. Thus you should approach the customer when their memory about the product or service is fresh.

Conducting a survey cannot be done in an ad-hoc manner. It is always good to conduct surveys often enough to get the most information, but not so often as to upset/annoy the customer. In real terms, the frequency with which you conduct a customer satisfaction survey depends on the frequency with which you interact with your customers.

For instance, we cannot conduct surveys about Christmas cake or other sweets during Sinhala Avurudu season. It would be silly for one to ask customers about previous year’s Christmas cake/pudding during Avurudu. Conversely, if I survey the customers on my rapid transit system once a year, I will miss important changes in their attitudes that may be driven by seasonal events.

Next, think about what it is you want to do with the answers. What do you want to accomplish with your survey? Be as specific as possible. There’s no point in asking questions that won’t lead to actionable results. Have a targeted use for every bit of information gathered.

While surveys and questionnaires can be great for getting detailed customer insights about a brand, service or product, they require customers to take the time and effort to complete the questions. There has to be a quicker way to get insights from customers and for customers to give feedback than a survey or questionnaire. There are so many that you can introduce to your customers.

The comment card

The comment card can be a powerful tool to enhance what you know about your business. Here are three reasons to try the comment card:

  •  A comment card can be open-ended, allowing the customer to speak their mind freely: Often, customers get caught up in surveys or questionnaires trying to understand aspects of a product or business. But a comment card can just be an open-ended field, asking customers to speak their minds, which can reveal more curious aspects of a product or business for which you may not have inquired about in a survey.
  •    A comment card requires minimal time from a customer, and therefore offers an optimal user experience.

Online surveys

With the increasing use of the internet, online questionnaires have become a popular way of collecting information. The design of an online questionnaire often has an effect on the quality of data gathered.

Advantages

  • The administrator has greater flexibility in displaying questions. Questions can be displayed with check boxes, pull down menus, popup menus, etc.
  • An online forum allows responses to be received more quickly from subjects.
  • This method is also cheaper to administer, as there are no costs associated with purchasing paper or other materials for printing. Postage costs are also mitigated.
  • Since data is collected into a central database, the time for analysis is subsequently reduced.
  • It is easier to correct errors on an online questionnaire, since the administrator does not have to reprint all the questionnaires for distribution

Disadvantages

  •     Everyone does not have access to the internet, so the response rate is limited.
  • Many people are not receptive to completing questionnaires online.
  • Studies indicate that the demographic that respond to online questionnaire invitations are generally biased to younger people.

Today there are many companies that will pay you to participate in online surveys, focus groups, and even product tests today. In this way people can even earn money.

Post action follow-up

What is of utmost importance is what we do with the survey results. Collecting information can be fun as it is tiring, but nothing happens unless someone does something about it. Collecting, tabulating, collating, analysing, differentiating and action are all important parts if a survey is to impact a company’s customer-centric standing.

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)

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