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How to use a customer satisfaction survey to evaluate business performance

We all work hard to deliver quality and value to our customers, and feedback can provide some necessary insights into how well our staff is providing customer service and placing the needs of the customers first. Using a simple, quick customer survey can show us how our staff meets commitments, how flexible they are as well as their working knowledge, and surveys are easily adaptable  to a company’s own needs.

I do think that surveys have to be specific to a company and its particular venue. In a face-to-face situation, customer surveys can too easily become popularity contests, so there has to be a lot of consistency in order to define a pattern to determine whether the service representative is actually excelling and on target. Over the internet a company has to collect data consistently to identify new trends.

So how do you do a customer satisfaction survey? My example is general and easily adaptable. The survey takes only a few minutes to complete and offers a reward for customer participation.

Dear Customer:

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you. We hope you are satisfied with our services/product. Please help us help you more efficiently in the future by taking just a few minutes to tell us about your experience. To show our appreciation, at the end of this short survey, a coupon for a 20% discount is attached to be used towards your next purchase.

Thank you again for using our company, and we appreciate your honest opinions.

Very truly yours,


  1. How long have you been using our services/products?
  2. Which of our products/services have you been using?
  3. How frequently have you purchased our products or used our services?
  4. Would you recommend our company to your friends, family or co-workers?
  5. How likely are you to continue doing business with us in the future or using our services?
  6. Do you have any suggestions how we can improve our services or our products?
  7. Please rate your overall satisfaction of our customer services.

Most experts suggest to offer multiple choice answers when applicable; for instance question numbers 1 through 3.  For question number 2, a list of services or products would be appropriate but always supply a box marked, “other”. When you ask a customer to rate their overall satisfaction, you can use from “very satisfied” to “extremely disappointed”. Make sure you include an area where a customer can comment; that’s a great way to identify and then work on improvements. For number 7, a similar choice of answers might be provided, and an allowable space for a customer/client to suggest improvements.

I also suggest a few questions to assess age group, gender, and demographics, and at the end of the survey, make sure you provide an email address or contact information for a customer who feels they may want to contact someone in your organization. You never know; you could be gaining another loyal customer.

photo credit: guspim

Airlines customer satisfaction showing improvement

Airlines continue to test our patience and tolerance with new fees. How does a summer surcharge ranging from $10 to $30 sound? According to frequent flier Erika Atkins, “I get pretty frustrated when I think I have found a great deal for a flight, and then I see all of these hidden fees.” And Erika is not alone since more than half of Americans have a summer trip planned, and the airlines hope to capitalize by the flurry of travelers.

Yet despite the complaints, customer satisfaction in the airlines industry has noticeably improved according to JD Power and Associates, a California-based research firm.  Customer service for the past three years had significantly been on the decline, but based on a 1,000 point scale, ten of the twelve airlines improved their scores. Continental and Alaska Airlines topped the Traditional Network Carrier Segment, and Jet Blue Airways and Southwest Airlines ranked highest among the Low Cost Carrier Segment. Airline assessments were based on seven averages including flight crew, in flight services, and costs and fees.

According to Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of global traffic and hospitality for JD Power and Associates,  “Airlines generally compete based on costs and fees which is necessary to make their organizations stronger in an extremely difficult environment. It’s important for carriers to remember, however that building a base of committed passengers is also about creating a travel experience that fosters emotional attachment to a particular carrier, which in turn may make customers willing to flex their schedules or pay a little more for their flight.”

United Airlines has made efforts to improve their operations and have been working on their on-time departures. Their  overall score increased by 26 points. Most think it is too early to tell if the higher scores are going to signal a turnaround for an industry known for their poor customer service. Factoring in rising airfares, crowded planes and the future merger of United and Continental, customers are hesitant to predict airlines will ever satisfy consumer expectations.

Was the survey influenced by last year’s reduced rates because of the economy? Yes, there were fewer complaints about luggage being lost or damaged, but haven’t passengers become accustomed to flying with less luggage because of the additional baggage fees? Indeed security lines are now less crowded, but haven’t passengers learned how to go through security lines; we pull out our laptops, don’t pack liquids, use plastic bags for allowed toiletries, etc.? The lines move a lot faster now. How will the polls rate Continental’s in-flight free food service being phased out next year if we fly economy class? Right now 65% of travelers rate complimentary meals as the top in-flight amenity they most like to have included.

Next year’s surveys should be even more interesting.

photo credit: joanna8555

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in Customer Service

The military service practice of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” has an interesting message for customer service practice. If you don’t ask customers for their feedback, they won’t tell you how to improve. Ignoring their issues may reduce the conflict, but it also reduces the learning. And, today those customers with a problem will steal away in the night without warning. Why do organizations fail to solicit feedback in a meaningful way? Most fear the customer’s ire if that Pandora’s Box is opened – better to leave well enough alone.

The truth is that simply asking has a big impact on the customer’s perception that an organization cares, even if nothing changes. Granted, continually asking for feedback without change that customers notice will ultimately erode their trust. Customers know you are not perfect and do not expect you to be. But, they do expect you to care.

One organization sent out feedback postcards to randomly selected customers. When the cards were returned, the company filed them away with reading them. The next time that company did a customer survey, the customers who had received feedback postcards gave the company higher customer satisfaction scores than those who did not receive a postcard! What are you doing to make it easier for customers to register their feedback? What steps can you take to enable your front line employees to ASK in manner that encourages customers to TELL?

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of the best-selling book Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. They can be reached at www.taketheirbreathaway.com.

How SEO can help customer service

When you have a new online business, how others see you or even find you are of vital importance. When few internet users know who you are, the most popular way to get noticed is using Search Engine Optimization which should ultimately lead to a bigger market share of either the business or service you are offering. It is a most effective way to establish online branding, build trust, respect and encourage others to visit your site.

Now if you have been in business for a while, SEO can help set you apart from your competition. Most of us already realize when companies offer nearly the same product or service, what others think about your customer service is apt to set one company apart from another. Using a SEO campaign to measure customer satisfaction can help a company to figure out likes, dislikes, suggestions to improve, or even what customers would like from a business or service as yours in the future.

SEO can help to communicate with a target audience through social networking. You can ask questions relevant to your business practices and interact with clients and customers. Many companies now use blogs to encourage others to supply feedback, comments, thoughts or opinions.

Companies often use customer surveys on their websites. If you decide to go that route however, it is imperative to have a high quality, well-written (no spelling errors please) and well-organized survey. Make sure you have honed in on the information you want to gain from the survey. If the survey is too broad in nature, nothing much will be accomplished.

Customer surveys should be short and simple. You don’t want to distract a customer from shopping or learning about your service while visiting your website, but you do want the simple and short questions answered. Don’t make the survey too loud, but keep it attractive, concise and did I already say pertinent? Keep it friendly, but don’t be too forward and never ask questions that you would not answer yourself.

Offering rewards, discounts, coupons or prizes encourage customers and potential customers to visit your website. New customers answer questions, and you can find more information about your competition and what makes customers loyal to someone else. Just remember the basic rule of a customer survey; it should be designed to help you affect positive changes. When you tally up the results, make sure you tally up your improvements.

photo credit: guspim

Customer satisfaction surveys

I used to dabble in some online survey groups to gain experience in identifying customer satisfaction criteria. The survey companies paid a ridiculously low compensation or offered lotteries, sweepstakes or points to keep us participating. Some of the surveys were particularly repetitious; some asked for information I would probably not reveal to my accountant, but a few were succinctly designed to garner results and asked questions relevant to specific goals for specific companies.

The company has to think about the reason for the survey. Is the purpose to evaluate the future of a particular product or is it going to measure areas  in which a business can improve? When the company has identified its goals, the business can choose a cross-section of participants for the interviews and find out how they perceive a particular product or even the efficiency of their  customer service. At times targeting the entire client base might be a great idea, but it becomes a lot less expensive and more productive to survey particular aspects of a business and then use each section as a building block or part of the puzzle striving to fit all of the pieces together in one coherent, well-planned community.

As companies survey customers however, it is important to note that customers expect the responses they give to produce observable results. If the surveys fail to listen to the customer responses and suggestions, and no changes are produced, those customers are not likely to continue to participate. Companies need to take action and budget enough resources to make the changes and meet customer expectations.  There was a local roofing company in my area who called all of the homeowners who had used them in the past and asked for suggestions how they could improve their business. Most of the neighbors responded that the employees were very sloppy; they would leave empty soda cans, food wrappers and debris lying around. Evidently the company didn’t take that suggestion very seriously, because a number of neighbors who participated in the survey were so disgruntled they told other neighbors who may have been considering using the company. I don’t see that company here anymore. Could it be?

As the surveys concentrate on specific goals, the length, questions, customer data, collection reports and actions to be taken have to be considered. Most surveys are conducted online, and telephone surveys still do exist. Automated software make surveys relatively easy, and depending on the age, socio-economic and geographic areas the survey is designed to reach, the results can make a discernible improvement in customer satisfaction.

photo credit: guspim

Independent customer service agency

STELLA Service claims to be the first completely independent customer service ratings agency for e-commerce. Released last week the two Bucknell graduates, John Ernsberger and Jordy Leiser wanted to help consumers make more informed online purchasing decisions and help companies learn more about their competition.

Customer Service Analysts have extensive usability testing standards including  helpfulness of web site, ordering, returning, interacting with customer service representatives by phone, email and live chat. The objective customer service ratings include 300 unique customer service features which are weighted according to the particular significance to certain metrics. For instance, the company will weigh more importance on gift wrapping for a florist or a specialty gift shop than a department store selling coats. The collection of thousands of data points make this possible.

According to STELLAService, great online service is worth 17.3 billion dollars and all outstanding customer service could be valued at 268 billion dollars a year.  Americans will spend 9.7% more this year for great customer service.

The survey polled 304 consumers from Greenfield Online, one of the oldest online survey panels, to examine spending and opinions. People were looking for value and the following three points were the most important:

  1. Speed of delivery
  2. Helpfulness of customer service personnel
  3. Ease of information on the company website

A rating system was set-up, much like a report card to reflect the quality of service and their ratings are the  sum of all interactions of both ‘service and system’ components for each business, with service components emphasizing the human elements of a company’s interaction with customers and system components stressing the technological elements….mimics real conditions, environments and encounters experienced by online consumers.”

Their rating system briefly explained is as follows:

  • 80 – 100| Elite  | “customer obsessed” company
  • 75-79 | Very Good | high quality with slight improvements needed
  • 70-74 | Good | great service but not a lot of offerings or features
  • 65-69 | Fair | adequate, but need for improvements
  • 60-64 | Mediocre | weak services in key areas
  • 0-60 | Poor | lack of dedication, willingness to provide service, warn consumers to stay away

STELLAService did identify the elite in customer service as those delivering “WOW” through service, friendliness, knowledge, fast, free shipping, return policies, and user-friendly sites who have made the customer their top priority. Standing out from the crowd were Zappos.com and Diapers.com. Other companies notably mentioned who treat customers like family and friends and provided exceptional service were Staples.com, LLBean.com and BlueNile.com.

photo credit: cote

The cost of poor customer service

Genesys Lab in conjunction with Datamonitor/Ovum calculated a 338.5 billion dollar lost resulting from poor customer service. The survey done by Greenfield Online questioned 8800 people from every age and income group with a 28 online questionnaire based on the services provided by  internet and call centers. Sixteen different countries including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada were polled and results were reported in “The Cost of Poor Customer Service: The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement.”

This was the first large-scale attempt to place an economic value on poor service since few companies ever measure their losses which includes time spent on each phone call as well as  the speed of answering. Revenue losses were evaluated by the amount of customers who “defected and abandoned their purchases” and those services taken to a competitor. The poll showed 63% went to a competitor and 37% did not buy the product or service.

The hardest hit companies affected by revenue loss were cable and satellite providers, telecommunications, and government offices. The most positive companies were involved with consumer products, travel, hospitality, and financial services.

The most common complaint focused on automated self-service not being integrated with human assistance. Also waiting too long on-line or on the telephone for service, untrained representatives, and repetitive conversations ranked high on the annoyance scale. The best customer service experiences reported were based on employee competence, consumer convenience, human services integrated with self-service, being proactive, and personalization.

It’s not surprising how customer frustrations actually figure into such profound losses. No matter how much automated self-service is instituted and the human factor eliminated, the savings realized by cutting back on employees may be costing the company far more with the loss of customers. Just borderline or mediocre customer service can no longer retain customers; exceptional service is what consumers demand.

photo credit: guspim

Feedback Survey from Skype

Not that long ago, I wrote about how I received a terrific auto-response from Skype. It took them a lot longer than 72 hours to reply (the reply was useful when it finally did come, though) and now I am writing about their feedback process.

Firstly, they sent a very nice looking email less than 24 hours after the issue was resolved (click for full size):

Not only was the email nice looking, but the message was well written – it was both personal and professional:

You recently contacted Skype Customer Support and we’d love to get your feedback on the support you received – good, bad or indifferent. By answering a few questions about your experience you can really help us improve Skype.

When you click on the big Get Started button, you are led to a third party survey web site that asks the following questions in a survey that was divided into two parts:

Skype Survey Part One

  1. Overall, how would you rate the experience you had with Skype Customer Support? (multiple choice)
  2. To help Skype continue to provide a high standard of service, would you please tell us what we did to earn your satisfaction? (open ended)
  3. Was your question to Skype Customer Support resolved? (yes or no)
  4. How would you rate the ease of contacting Skype Customer Support? (multiple choice)
  5. How satisfied were you with the speed in which Skype Customer Support responded to your question(s)? (multiple choice)
  6. How many times have you contacted Skype Customer Support regarding this issue?

Skype Part Two

  1. Overall, how satisfied were you with this specific Skype representative’s service? (multiple choice)
  2. Did our Skype representative treat you like a valued Skype customer? (yes or no)
  3. How would you rate your Skype representative’s email response? (matrix, see below, click for full size)
  4. How quickly do you expect a response from Skype when you send an email? (multiple choice)
  5. How likely are you to use Skype in the next three months? (multiple choice)
  6. How likely is it that you will recommend Skype to a friend or colleague? (Net Promoter scale)
  7. What is your main use of Skype? (multiple choice)
  8. If you were given the choice, how would you prefer to contact Skype Customer Support?
Overall, a fairly lengthy, but very thorough survey. It is one of the better written and most relevant surveys I have seen. It asked a lot of great questions that support organizations could learn a lot from. The questions cover the actual issue handled as well as the broader product and support focus at Skype.

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