Customer Satisfaction and Relationships

Do you know what your customers want?  Do you understand what they value?  Does your competition?  It costs less to keep your current customers happy than it does to find new customers.  This is a marketing truth.  Yet how can you keep your customers happy if you don’t know what they want.

Customer satisfaction is often an abstract concept in business.  We think we understand what the customer wants and we judge customer satisfaction by the relative success of our business.  What most of us miss, however, is the link between customer satisfaction and relationship.

Maintaining any relationship requires work.  Customer relationships, just like personal relationships, need communication to survive.  In fact, the best relationships involve thoughtful questions, honest answers, and careful listening by both parties.   Surveys are a great way to open the lines of communication between you and your customers.

Did you just groan?  Customer surveys are so often done wrong they have a bad reputation.  If you’ve ever lost interest after several minutes taking a customer survey, you understand why. Lengthy, poorly designed surveys waste everyone’s time – including the company receiving the results.  Done properly, however, a survey is just what you need to improve customer satisfaction.  What goes into an effective survey?

  • Start with a Purpose – An effective survey begins with a defined and limited purpose.   Rather than asking about overall customer satisfaction, for example, consider a survey that asks customers to rate a specific product or service or share information on their most recent visit to your organisation.
  • Keep It Short and Sweet – Limit your survey to no more than 20 questions.  If you can get to the heart of the issue in only five questions, even better.  Respect your customer’s time and use it carefully.
  • Keep it Simple – Use multiple choice or yes/no questions.  Avoid industry specific terms or jargon.  Your customers should think about their opinions as they answer, not spend time deciphering the questions.
  • Make it Fun – Wherever possible, use fun phrases or interesting graphics and format.  Don’t take your business too seriously but instead have a little fun with the survey.  You want to make your customers smile if possible.
  • Offer an Incentive “You’ve asked your customers to share something personal with you – their time and opinion.  Reward them by sharing something in return.  Offer a discount, coupon, or small token of thanks at the end of the survey.

Surveying your customers is only part of the communication process.  Once you’ve conducted your survey, it’s time for you to really listen to the responses you receive.  Companies such as Apple or Harley Davidson understand the role customer opinion and feedback in their success.  They use the information they gather from customers to adjust their products and services.  They align their organisations to respond to customer input.

One of the most important things you can do as a part of the customer survey process is actually use the data.  Begin with a defined purpose for the survey.  Determine in advance how you will analyse the responses and what you will do with the data once you have it.

Include customers in the process.  Tell them in simple, clear terms how you plan to use their input.  Will you use it to improve services?  Are you looking for insight into a new product line?  Are you hoping to expand into another market?  Share this in advance with your customers.

Once a customer completes the survey, send a confirmation email to let them know their response was properly submitted.  If a particular survey shows a negative opinion or indicates a problem, follow up with that customer.  Don’t wait, but act quickly with a personal response message from someone on your customer service team or in the appropriate area of your organisation.

Consider sharing the results of your survey with the customers who participated.  Let them know what you uncovered and what action you plan to take with that information.  As you make changes and adjustments to your organisation, credit the customer feedback you received during the survey.  Help your customers feel their input had results.

Building a strong customer relationship based on communication requires focus and determination.  Listening carefully to customers, however, gives your organisation a strong competitive advantage.  As you bring your organisation, products and services into alignment with the needs and expectations of your customers you create the type of customer loyalty that keeps you ahead of your competition.