How to... Deliver customer satisfaction

Posted: 12/09/2019

Customer satisfaction is increasingly recognised as one of the key performance indicators in most businesses and service organisations. According to online tool SurveyMonkey: ‘We’ve found that businesses who measure customer satisfaction are 33% more likely to describe themselves as successful than those who don’t’. So how do you make sure you’re delivering?

Measure it 
You can’t ever know if your customers are satisfied – and whether satisfaction is improving or declining – if you don’t ask them. There’s no shortage of ways to do so: a survey at the end of each phone call or web interaction; a monthly, quarterly or annual randomised survey; face-to-face. It depends on the organisation. A Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a fairly blunt instrument and you’ll probably want to drill down to more detailed questions. Net Promoter Score is considered by many in the field to be a more effective tool to use as it measures how likely your customers are to recommend you to a friend. 

It’s not enough just to measure your own customer satisfaction – you need to compare it with others, especially in your sector, to see if you’re doing better or worse than your competitors. Several companies, and even business schools, offer benchmarking to particular sectors using a common set of questions. According to the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), benchmarking not only measures where you rank overall in your sector, it also highlights strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Appoint customer champions 
These are individuals who will represent the customer and be an advocate for customers in internal discussions. They are responsible for ensuring customer feedback is given attention throughout your business, and that resources are allocated for improving customer experience. The UK Passport Office has a network of 100 customer champions. “They help us ensure that customers are listened to and their feedback is acted upon,” says Lead Customer Experience Manager Julia Law. “Customer champions give vital insight into our customers’ needs, based upon their day-to-day dealings with customers, but also their understanding of our business.” 

Create a customer panel 
Find out what your customers’ expectations are. You could do that by conducting a survey, but to gain a deeper understanding, convene a focus group or, better still, recruit your own panel of customers who will be prepared to discuss their requirements on a regular basis. Those who come forward for this are likely to be your more loyal customers; you can also use them as a test bed for new ideas and innovations, particularly those relating to a service. 

Set an SLA 
According to the ICS, a service level agreement (SLA) ‘states in measurable terms the levels of service that an organisation will provide and a customer can expect to receive. Some SLAs also give details of what will happen if the organisation fails to meet its agreed levels of service’. It’s a way to manage your customers’ expectations; at the very least it provides a tangible way to measure your performance, and the redress to expect if you don’t measure up.

Act on feedback 
Too many organisations put in the effort to survey their customers on satisfaction – but then don’t act on it. ‘Feedback is a double-edged sword. If you invite it, you can really impress your customers with prompt follow-up,’ says customer feedback specialist CustomerSure. ‘However, if you invite feedback but don’t act on it or respond, then it sends a signal that you’ve ignored it. And that’s worse than not asking at all because you’ve raised an expectation with someone, then failed to meet it.’

Put your people first 
It’s often said that happy people equal happy customers, and that means putting your employees first. As Virgin founder Richard Branson has explained it: “If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success.” 

Check it 
Don’t just take your customers’ word for it about whether the service you’re giving is satisfactory or not – those most dissatisfied may just go away and not bother to tell you. Use third parties – including mystery shoppers – to get a first-hand experience of what your customer service is really like. 

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