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The 7 Deadly Sins of customer satisfaction research

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Client feedback is high on the agenda for many companies. A way to collect scalable feedback is through customer satisfaction research. However, how do you make sure that it does not turn against you? By steering clear of the 7 Deadly Sins!

Sin #1: Endless questionnaires

Let us kick off with Deadly Sin number one: Thinking that your business clients have all the time in the world to fill in your endless questionnaire. Of course you want to get a clear view of how your clients feel about your company. However, customer satisfaction surveys that take up 20 minutes of their time are most certainly not going to be the answer. 

On average, companies only perform customer satisfaction research once a year, which seems quite logical considering the gigantic book works they ask to be filled out.. 

Why not work with significantly shorter questionnaires that allow for multiple short feedback moments over the course of the year? This will help to stay tuned in to your clients' wishes and gives a feel for whether you're heading in the right direction, that is, towards client loyalty.

Sin #2: Impersonal treatment

'In name of supplier X, we of Y Research would like to ask you to fill in the attached questionnaire'. 
It doesn't get any more impersonal than that. Regrettably, this is more often the rule than the exception.

If you ask your clients to spend time filling in your questionnaire, it would seem a no-brainer to at least ask this favour on your own account. On top of that you can expect more response if you show a human face. 

  • Send by unknown market research office: Low response
  • Send by colleague whom client doesn't know: Average response
  • Send by the contact person of the client: High response

How much of a hassle is it really to ask for feedback personally, if it means you give your cherished business clients the feeling that your are genuinely interested in their opinion?

Sin #3: Not following up to feedback 

When I ask people why they seldom fill in customer satisfaction surveys, they often answer 'Nothing is done with my input anyway' 

How does your company follow-up to the acquired satisfaction research results? Will they be read once, after which they'll be put in a drawer never to be opened again? Or does your company formulate concrete action points and communicates with respective clients how their feedback is going to be tackled? 

Only in the latter scenario would it be realistic to expect some kind of meaningful impact on your business. Following up to feedback also makes your clients more prepared to give their opinion next time you ask. They know for a fact that you will be doing something with it. That is, make their experience with your company even better.

Sin #4: Anonymous research 

In earlier days, client satisfaction research was anonymous. The big disadvantage was that results offered little context. For one, they did not differentiate between A and B clients, frequently leading to critical misjudgments on how business was going; the biggest client responsible for 20% of purchases, might just as well be on the verge of walking away from you. 

Make sure therefore you can trace back the results. That way negative feedback can function as an 'Early Warning System' that tells you which clients need some extra Tender Loving Care. 

When you find yourself wondering about this anonymity, realise that people nowadays are much more prepared to seal their opinion with their name. On Facebook and Twitter for example, it is what people do, all day long..

Sin #5: No company-wide support

Not so long ago I talked to someone who said she detested the customer satisfaction survey her company conducted once a year. She called it 'a trick of the higher management'.

"We were only told afterwards when research had long been conducted. It painfully exposed issues that were not going well. It led to a disproportionate tightening of the rules and procedures, instead of dealing with them together to come up with more informed and comprehensive solutions." 

When you fail to include your employees properly, they will try to come up with excuses to account for the results, rather than engaging with the feedback constructively. It is pivotal therefore that the entire organisation is involved and that feedback results are accessible at all times. 

Moreover, having everyone involved makes chasing higher customer satisfaction scores a common goal, which will help to follow through on feedback and implement improvements more effectively.

Sin #6: One single survey

When your company chooses to measure satisfaction it has to realise that doing so once a year is not going to suffice. Still too often companies perform one expensive and time-consuming research survey. The dense Year Report will be read once, and perhaps in some cases a couple of notes will be taken, but generally things remain the same. Successfully measuring and improving customer satisfaction requires dedication.

Do you plan to take up this rewarding challenge for real?
Then keep the following recurring steps in mind:

  1. Ask feedback
  2. Follow through on feedback outcomes
  3. Check whether improvements have been noticed

Only when you are successful in closing this feedback loop, measuring satisfaction can lead to fundamental change within the organisation.

Sin #7: Customer research as goal in itself 

Many companies measure satisfaction 'because they ought to be doing so'. These companies generally are guilty of committing one or more of the 7 Sins.

Prevent therefore that customer satisfaction research becomes a goal in and of itself. Without the intend of improving upon the feedback, it really is no use. Only if you come to recognise it as a way to guide you towards happy and loyal clients, it will start to make a difference. In any other case it's just a waste of valuable time and energy for all people involved. 

Conclusion

Everyone is helped by a little feedback, but let's try to keep it fun and relevant. Customer satisfaction research does not enjoy a very juicy reputation at the moment. For the most part this has to do with the aforementioned Sins I've attempted to expose.

With Starred we wish to break away from this useless reputation. That is why we designed our feedback system specifically to facilitate smooth customer satisfaction research and follow-up. Realise that your clients will already be pleased when you genuinely ask for their opinion, provided that you do something tangible with it. By taking the feedback to heart, you can close the backdoor and ensure that your clients are happy to stay.

Which Sins do you commit at the moment?

Best wishes,

Lars van Wieren, founder Starred.com

Starred makes it easy for your company to gather feedback from your business clients without losing a lot of time and money. Starred makes feedback simple.

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