Customer Satisfaction Best Practices – Part 2

In my previous article, I described the first four customer satisfaction best practices to help you create a high quality and actionable customer satisfaction system for your business.  This article covers the remaining three items based on over three decades of research experience.  While there are many other factors to consider, these seven items should put you on a path for success.

First, let’s recap the items from my prior article.

Recap of First Four Best Practices

  1. Use an appropriate scale – The scale you use should have enough points to be sensitive to minor changes in satisfaction without being overwhelming or confusing.  The key principle is that the number of scale points should match the degree of discernment customers can identify with your product.
  2. Include diagnostic questions that are important to the customer – not just the things that are important to you.  You are essentially trying to create a “mental model” of how customers evaluate your product.  The best way to do this is to ask (via a separate survey) a number of open-ended questions regarding the characteristics they look for when shopping for your type of product, why they chose your brand, what they liked and disliked about it, etc.
  3. Use open-ends to aid understanding – closed-ended questions are easy to analyze and are helpful to track changes over time.  However, comment questions or “open-ends” provide incredible insights into why a customer liked or disliked your product or what concerns they experienced with it.
  4. Ask customers if they wish to be contacted – the most important reason to implement a customer satisfaction survey is to increase customer retention.  And, following up with customers with issues in a timely and professional manner can improve loyalty.

The Remaining Customer Satisfaction Best Practices

5. Include “classification” questions to segment responses

As every marketer knows, all customers are not alike.  Some segments have different needs or priorities that may impact their relationship with your product or business.  For example, tournament anglers likely have very different requirements than recreational anglers.  If it is your goal to reach both, then it is important to include questions to enable you to analyze how well you are meeting the needs of each.

The set of classification questions to include are those that pertain to how you segment your customer base or are hypothesized to correspond to higher or lower levels of satisfaction.

The set of classification questions to include are those that pertain to how you segment your customer base or are hypothesized to correspond to higher or lower levels of satisfaction.  For example, first time boat owners might have a very different opinion than experienced boaters.  Therefore, having a question on the number of boats ever owned can provide important context to enable you to determine whether you are adequately addressing the needs of those who are new to boating.

Here are some things to consider as you develop your list of classification questions:

  • Who is using your product?
  • How do they use it?
  • Why do they use it?
  • Where do they use it?
  • When or how often do they use it?

The classification questions should be included at the end of your questionnaire after the “primary” information is gathered.

But one type of question you should be cautious about including are demographic questions.  Things like age, education, income and race rarely correspond to differences in satisfaction and therefore are not helpful in analyzing the data.  Plus, some of these questions can offend your customers.  While I think it is important to know these things (especially for media and communications planning), I believe it is better to gather this information via a separate survey if possible.

6. Make sure your questionnaire is mobile-friendly

Most customer satisfaction surveys are conducted online because it is more efficient than phone or mail data collection.  And, in the “old” days, say 2010 or earlier, most online activity was via a desktop or laptop computer.  But that all changed in recent years.  Now, nearly half of those responding to my surveys are completing them via a mobile device (mostly cell phones and some tablets) and this percentage is growing each year.

This means that it is important that the survey tool you are using is “responsive”.  Responsive is just a fancy word for a web design approach that allows pages to “render” or display properly on all device types and screen sizes.  If you do not do this, your survey might be difficult to read and so your response rate could suffer.  Plus, it is not a “good look” for your brand.

In addition to using a responsive survey tool, be sure to pre-test your survey on both desktop and mobile devices.   You might find that, even if your survey is “responsive”, some items might still appear a bit awkward when viewed from a phone.  Grid-type rating questions (where respondents rate several items on the same scale) can be particularly problematic, especially if you label the scale points or anchors (end-points).  For this reason, I often use the “star” rating scale that Amazon made popular (although I use 10 stars instead of 5) because you do not need to label the scale points and so it is more conducive to mobile devices.

7. Leadership buy-in is critical

My company developed and managed the customer satisfaction survey for a leading marine manufacturer for nearly two decades.  Though we did our due-diligence up front to design a high quality, customer-focused survey system, very little changed after the first few years of implementation.  The reason?  The learning was not being acted upon.  Yes, it made for some great PowerPoint fodder in management meetings but there was no incentive to actually do anything with it.  The information was often ignored or dismissed – particularly when the results were not favorable.

Of the customer satisfaction best practices, getting leadership buy-in is THE most important

And this is a normal reaction.  People don’t like to be told that there “baby” is ugly and most employees are already very busy with their current responsibilities.  Expecting them to take on more work to address issues identified in a survey is unrealistic.  That is, until it is made a priority at the top.

Once the company leadership embraced our program and it became part of the company culture, everything changed.  Satisfaction scores soared as the tool became an integral part of the company’s product development and improvement efforts.  Over time, it was even incorporated into the employee compensation plan.

So how does this cultural shift come about?  A good place to start is for company leaders to regularly ask their teams how they are performing in terms of meeting their customer satisfaction goals.  And, when deficiencies are noted, team members should be challenged to develop a plan to improve performance in their area of responsibility.  Over time, compensation incentives could be included as a “carrot” after a solid baseline of data has been established.  And all of this needs to be supplemented with quality reports and dashboards so that employees always know where things stand.

Of the customer satisfaction best practices, getting leadership buy-in is THE most important in my opinion.  Without it, you are just keeping score or tracking stats like in a baseball game.  But knowing you are a .200 battery won’t change a thing unless you study the data and take the steps necessary to improve your swing.  It is my hope that by following these practices, your company will improve its “swing” and retain more of your hard-earned customers.

Free Survey Resources

Do you want to implement a customer satisfaction program but feel that you don’t have the resources to do it properly?  Now you can.  The Left Brain Marketing “Ready-made Solutions” are a set of survey tools that includes a “Customer Satisfaction with the Product” and “Customer Satisfaction with the Dealer” questionnaire among others.  Designed for boat builders, dealers and similar companies on a limited budget, these survey tools are free to use “as is” or can be customized for a minor additional charge.   Each tool was personally developed by Jerry Mona, often considered the foremost research expert in the marine industry, based on his decades of experience helping leading manufacturers and trade associations to get in touch with their target customers.

Check out the “Ready-made Solutions” page for an overview of each tool or fill out our brief request form to get started.