thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer


By on February 11, 2009

Why do satisfaction surveys have such a bad name? Because very little is ever done with the majority of them. And why is nothing done with them? Because the results are not actionable.

Larry Bossidy in Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right warns against shallow, "one-size-fits-all" surveys that are typically designed by the HR Department. This type of superficial survey sends the message "We didn't plan very much. We had one employee create a survey and launch it. We really only care about getting good scores. If, instead, we get weak scores, you will never hear the results and we will probably not take any action." Without a commitment to the process, quality suffers and your customers will not only ignore the effort, but will resent the casual approach to information gathering. In other words, a weak effort only shows that you don't care about them.

There is, of course, an assortment of on-line survey tools available for $19.95/month. While they are functionally viable, these platforms send a blatant message that says "Don't take this survey seriously, because we don't." They have overtones of "We will never do anything with information. That's why we didn't spend very much money on starting this project in the first place."

Actionable satisfaction results require a deliberate, sequential approach. An organization must be able to do business the way a customer wants and this requires a strong, accurate understanding of the way customers think. Ask yourself, "Does our measurement system provide information to manage our customer interfaces strategically?"

Customer satisfaction is like a cocktail. It is a combination of customers' perceptions of the people and processes that you present to them. But you don't really know these perceptions without measuring them. Terry Vavra, in Aftermarketing, writes "Things are never what they seem. Measure customer satisfaction to get a different perspective." He rightly points out that this process is a major commitment. "It recognizes the value of long-term relationships. It embraces the current customer, rather than always looking for the new one. It makes winners out of the seller and the customer."

Customer loyalty is often touted as much more important than satisfaction. But many would-be experts neglect to tell companies that loyalty requires extensive knowledge of customer needs and what satisfies them. You can't skip the satisfaction step and move straight into loyalty. Satisfaction is the foundation of every successful company and that is why they measure it. You certainly wouldn't take shortcuts on your other company measurements, would you? Devote the effort to get it right. It really is a state of mind that customers matter and should be given as much attention as finance and operations.

Flex your muscle as a great supplier. Show your customers that you are developing your continuous improvement process by listening to and thinking like them. Then, take action. Your organization will be stronger and your customers will love you for it.


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