If you’re like me, you’ve probably been the recipient of a customer satisfaction survey from a service provider after you patronized their business. I recently have filled one out for the painter who did work for me, and every time I take my car to the mechanic, they send me a questionnaire to grade their service.
Although service industries are better suited to gauging customer satisfaction on a case-by-case basis than retailers, there are other business sectors that assess their customers’ experience, including National Hockey League teams and credit cards.
WHY DO IT
Chances are that you think you have a pretty good business, and you’re probably right! However, people, including executives and business owners, naturally have biases about themselves. Getting outside feedback through an assessment of customer satisfaction is a way to see if your customers view you and your service in a similar manner that you do.
Many times, companies only find out about a dissatisfied customer after he or she has stopped frequenting the business, which is generally after the time that the situation can be effectively remedied. In the example of the painter, which is a service that may only be provided to a specific customer every few years, the business may never know that they lost an unhappy customer that went elsewhere for their next painting project.
In the latter case, the company has no chance to fix the problem and may have no idea what caused the customer to cease using its service. Therefore, they are apt to make the same mistake in the future and risk alienating new customers.
HOW TO DO IT
There can be varying levels of formality in a customer satisfaction survey. Free online surveys are available for those businesses just starting the process. Other third-party vendors can provide similar services where they provide some guidance about the types of questions to ask. Some customers are more apt to reply to an online survey; others may be inclined to return a paper form.
Businesses that send a paper survey should do so with the final bill so that the customer is sure to see it and to ensure that the survey is provided in a reasonable time after services have been completed. Waiting weeks to send such a survey will lead to less reliable results because the customer’s experience is not as fresh in his or her memory.
Regardless of the means of conveyance, the survey should have specific questions about different aspects of the service (friendliness of staff, quality of work/product, value for the price). Questions can be in the format of grading on a 1 to 5 scale or something similar (make sure you appropriately and adequately define what each number on the scale signifies), but open-ended questions tend to provide greater detail as to the customer’s experience.
Important questions to include in the survey are:
- How likely are you to recommend XYZ Company to a friend?
- How likely are you to use XYZ Company’s services/products in the future?
- How could your experience have been better with XYZ Company?
AFTER YOU HAVE RESULTS
Simply asking the questions to determine the satisfaction level of customers is not enough. If the answers are generally positive, perhaps no substantial changes in a service model are necessary; however, glowing responses are not a reason to discontinue the practice of satisfaction surveys.
In the case where the results are not universally positive, a company needs follow-up on the responses, including potentially reaching out to dissatisfied customers for more detail on the reason for their unhappiness and what can be done to make the situation right in the future.
In either case, a team of employees should meet on a regular basis to review the responses and formulate a plan to address deficiencies or commend their company for its sterling reputation.
By Dan Massey, CPA, Manager