Once a popular buzzword, customer satisfaction has become a standard in defining business operations and one that requires measurement and adjustment of platforms and processes. In fact, not measuring customer satisfaction to identify and implement improvement opportunities is akin to throwing away revenue.
The tendency for customers to switch vendors after a poor product or customer service experience has been well documented, a trend that is only provoked by increasingly competitive markets and availability of products and services. What’s more, unhappy customers are not likely to keep their sentiments to themselves. Instead, they are quick to share their dissatisfaction with family, friends, and colleagues, especially through social media, where comments can quickly reach countless other customers or prospects. When you consider it is about six times more expensive to attract new customers as it is to retain existing ones, measuring and analyzing customer satisfaction is a no-brainer.
One of the problems is that while the strong majority of businesses say they deliver excellent customer service, customers largely disagree, showing clearly that business beliefs are not in line with customer expectations. That’s not to say that the majority of businesses deliver poor customer service – most are somewhere in the gray zone of being just adequate enough to get by, but where a slight reduction in service quality can push customers over the edge. Instead of being content to live in that grey zone, business leaders must elevate their expectations and understanding, which can only be done by measuring customer satisfaction.
It begins with understanding how your customers are interacting and transacting with you. What they are buying should already be integrated into your customer records, so attaching sentiment to specific purchases should be an easy analysis. But, if your customers engage with you in various ways – online, in-person, contact center, field professionals, etc. – each of them needs to be targeted slightly differently to understand their level of satisfaction. Your objective should be to understand customer satisfaction broadly across your business, but also in the context of individual interactions and channels. To effectively measure CSAT, you have to understand the best way and time to ask for your customers’ feedback. Customer service calls should have an immediate feedback mechanism, while product purchases can utilize a follow-up process once customers have had a chance to develop sentiment. targeting each type of experience with a specific strategy to increase feedback rates and provides a more complete picture of customer satisfaction across the board.
Measure the right metrics
When developing your feedback strategies, be sure to understand the elements of your products, services, or customer service engagements that impact purchasing decisions. Often, customer response to what they find important in a product isn’t truly what drives their purchasing decisions. For instance, a new car purchaser may tell a dealer the manufacturer’s safety record is the most important factor. In reality, though, safety regulations mandate certain safety guidelines be followed in all vehicles, and driver ability and attention is a significant factor in accident prevention. However, financing deals, cash back offers, available features, appearance, and even color schemes are greater drivers of purchasing decisions. While safety is a critical feature, it’s not a driver of buying behavior as much as other factors. The point is to understand what factors actually influence buying decisions and satisfaction and focus on those aspects, whether that’s product features, website navigation, self-service capabilities, or the ability to communicate with customer service through real-time chat.
In order to achieve goals, you have to set benchmarks. That means understanding the current status of customer satisfaction and where improvement opportunities lie, but also what’s feasible with consideration to your technology, staffing, and product capabilities. Broad benchmarks exist for customer service, for instance, but they are independent of specific business types, customer segments, technology capabilities, corporate objectives and budgets, and staffing. It’s good to know what those benchmarks are, but each business should evaluate and adjust their own benchmarks internally based on their capabilities as well as their customer needs. It may also be necessary to set incremental benchmarks or to separate them for different communications channels, depending on circumstances. There is no foolproof formula for increasing customer satisfaction, other than understanding what customers feel and what they expect, and then making adjustments to make experiences match or exceed expectations.
Don’t be afraid to report CSAT results too frequently. The faster and more frequently you’re able to communicate and understand customer satisfaction levels, the more effectively you can adjust to variations. You may experience some logical fluctuations due to peak periods, but as long as those fluctuations are within acceptable parameters and are anticipated, you may not have anything to worry about. But you do need to monitor them to make sure they don’t exceed thresholds. You may also find that certain adjustments in staffing, scheduling, technology, or other variables may have increased satisfaction in some areas, but caused a reduction in others. The sooner you can identify emerging trends, the sooner you can address them. Frequent monitoring of satisfaction can also help correlate the impact of other initiatives across the company, such as in product or service design and delivery, sales, and marketing.
Some adjustments to process are simple to carry out within teams by developing team behavior through coaching, or by making them aware of existing capabilities to which they have access but aren’t leveraging. Other changes, however, may require implementation of new solutions, add-on features, or integration with other systems. In order to facilitate successful implementation of those new strategies, it’s important to include IT management from the analysis and planning stages. They are the teams that will be tasked with deploying new technology and bringing them into the process at an early stage allows them to provide feedback and potential pitfalls, give time estimates, and ensure a smooth implementation overall because they have been made aware and are able to plan accordingly.
Not only does collecting customer satisfaction help improve your products and processes, it also increases your customer touchpoints and lets customers know you value their opinion. Depending on your objectives – and those can and should be reviewed periodically and adjusted as necessary – you can conduct a simple one-question survey about overall satisfaction. Or, you may need to get deeper into product or interaction specifics with additional questions of by opening open the opportunity for customers to add their own comments and clarifications. Regardless of these details, having an active and consistent customer satisfaction measurement strategy in place is critical to improving customer experience and, consequently, their satisfaction and brand loyalty.
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