Customer satisfaction is a measure of how a business is performing in relation to customers’ expectations. What are your customers looking for? What do they expect from you? The answers to these questions may seem obvious if you’re a small to medium enterprise with an established and successful offering of products or services. However, by assuming that you know your audience inside out, you risk falling behind your competitors. There are a number of informal methods for gauging levels of customer satisfaction, but none will get you concrete results. For example, not every unhappy customer makes a complaint, and even if they did write a critical review, these complaints don’t provide any insight into the customers who haven’t complained. Customer research should form an integral part of your current and future strategies. By gaining an up-to-date insight into the needs of your existing customers, you can adapt, adjust, and plan ahead.
“…Customers have never had it so good. They have a huge choice of high quality products and services at exceptionally competitive prices. The customer really is king, so it pays to keep them happy.”Nigel Hill, John Brierley and Rob MacDougall: How to Measure Customer Satisfaction (2nd ed.)
In today’s digital world, customers take to online platforms such as Twitter, Yelp, Google My Business and Facebook to register their opinion about products and services. Their views are aired for the world to see, and negative feedback can be damaging, particularly for small and medium sized businesses. Even the reputation of large businesses can be tarnished by online feedback – a famous example is the feud between Nestlé and Greenpeace in 2010. Greenpeace’s viral campaign to stop Nestlé using palm oil in their Kit Kats led to Nestlé’s Facebook page being flooded with customers asking them to stop their unsustainable practices. Instead of responding in a productive and positive way, Nestlé deleted a large portion of the comments, replying with a stock answer:
‘To repeat: we welcome your comments, but don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic — they will be deleted.’
This resulted in a huge backlash, and ten weeks later, Nestlé conceded that they would no longer use unsustainable palm oil in their products.
Although this is an extreme example, the way in which businesses interact with their customers is incredibly public; commissioning a customer satisfaction survey enables you to make improvements if something is causing your customers to complain, avoiding the repercussions of negative comments online if these issues aren’t addressed. In a 2019 survey by BrightLocal, it was found that among consumers that read reviews, 97% also read business’ responses to reviews, while 68% said a positive review made them more likely to use a business, and 40% said a negative one made them not want to use it. Contrary to popular belief, existing customers value contact from businesses seeking their opinions – this signals that their opinion matters, and that they have the opportunity to make changes.
In an ideal world, a customer satisfaction survey should consume very little of a respondent’s time and be completely relevant to their customer journey. This could take the form of a simple Net Promoter Score survey, asking ‘On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?’
The Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is a spectrum between -100 to +100 which categorises participants into three groups: promoters, passives and detractors. By subtracting your total percentage of detractors by your total percentage of promoters, you can determine your NPS. A positive score demonstrates that your company is keeping your customers happy – scores above 70 are exceptional. Conversely, if your score is less than 0, it indicates that your business is not meeting the expectations of your customers, and time should be spent ascertaining why this is.
However, NPS isn’t without its flaws. The fundamental problem with NPS is that, while it can tell you if customers are likely to recommend you, it can’t tell you why. This is why longer, more detailed questionnaires are incredibly useful to ask more open-ended questions about how your business can improve.
When carried out by professional researchers, customer satisfaction surveys give valuable insights into what your customers or prospects expect from you. These surveys can be longer than the average automated ‘How did we do?’ questionnaire often sent out by large businesses, but researchers ask permission to contact their respondents, and sometimes give customers an incentive to participate, whether that comes in the form of a prize draw entry or gift. Crucially, this data is compiled into reports which clearly visualise the results.
In order to gain useful data on your customers, it is essential to use a questionnaire that asks the right questions. A good mixture of open-ended and more specific questions can help you to work out what you need to improve, while also prompting your customer to make comments that provide more detail. You can monitor competitor activity by asking questions that directly ask your customers which competitors they use regularly, and what they think of their product or services. This could identify gaps in your competitors’ service provision that you may be able to make the most of. Identifying ‘pain points’ is equally important. These are points at which your customers experience your brand, product or services in a negative way. This could be anything from your website being slow or unintuitive, to poor customer service response time, to irritation with barrages of marketing emails. It is important to pinpoint these sticking points to avoid customer fatigue, or your customers could defect to a competitor.
Mackman Research recommends that customer satisfaction surveys are carried out annually. If you are serious in your commitment to customer satisfaction, you must have objective measures of the extent to which you are succeeding in order to gain the best insight into future loyalty. Raw data is just numbers until it is refined into useful results. Generating a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data allows for the greatest breadth of responses.
If you need help conducting a customer satisfaction survey or finding out your Net Promoter Score then get in contact with us today on 01206 625222 or send us a message on our contact form and one of our research specialists will be in contact with you to see how we can help.
Dr Gemma Mackman
Dr Gemma Mackman is co-founder and Research Director of the Mackman Group. Her professional career has given her a broad knowledge of business practices, an appreciation of good customer service and experience of a diverse range of sectors. Gemma is also a member of the Market Research Society and has completed research training provided by the Economic and Social Research Council.More About Gemma
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