Customer Surveys in the Experience Economy: A Global Perspective



Tahir Khan
08/12/2009

Reevaluating Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is always supremely important. We knew this fact for centuries; however, in these times every company is revisiting customer satisfaction with heaps of data and quite a few microscopes.

Suddenly everyone is talking about customer satisfaction not only to provide a great product or service but to utilize the insights from customer satisfaction results to derive responses to changing customer needs and evolving markets. The panic button was hit after witnessing many giant corporations going bankrupt with obvious reasons such as: These companies did not respond to customer needs and/or were far from market realities.

Achieving Customer Satisfaction in the Call Center

Seems every customer-facing interface is working to ensure that all customer interactions deliver the highest levels of satisfaction. This is especially true of in a call center environment since 80 percent of all products across industries are serviced through a team of people on the phones, e-mail or chat on the Web.

Banking, Retail, Automobile (customer service), Telecom, ISPs and other industries use these teams. The primary contact center theme these days is summed up as follows: "At any given point of time and within your operational window of support, there is always an ongoing interaction between your call center representative and your customer. How well that customer is being treated, how efficiently their issue is being resolved or addressed and how satisfied that customer is with the experience will define the size of your company in the coming weeks, months, quarters or years."

We are no longer a customer service economy but a customer experience economy.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction in the Experience Economy Through Surveys

Some obvious questions that pop up are: What is customer satisfaction? How do we achieve it? How are we measuring it? How effective is that measure realistically? Do the results translate into actual business terms of revenue and profit? So here we go…as Lord Kelvin said, "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it."

The definition of customer service is "Customer service involves an array of activities to keep existing customers satisfied so that they continue to use our service or product." The most prevalent yardstick to measure customer satisfaction is satisfaction surveys; the channels can be e-mail, phone or text message. (These are rarely face to face interviews.)

The surveys are generally conducted immediately or within 48 hours of the interaction. In the majority of cases this exercise is sourced to a third party in an attempt to maintain fairness and avoid any influence on the evaluation.

Most service providers (ISPs, computer manufacturers, etc.) rely on e-mails, a few opt for telephone surveys, while some prefer other channels available depending on availability and cost. Conventionally, phone surveys are costlier than e-mail surveys or text (sms) surveys. The degree of measure is inconsistent across survey channels due to some roadblocks affecting those mediums.

For example, e-mail surveys ask customers to comment on their experience and customers have the opportunity to voice their opinions; however, the response rate of e-mail surveys is low and declining, because of too many e-mails in customer inbox, especially in this networking age where an average customer may receive over 50 e-mails per day. The cost of an outbound telephone survey is 25 times higher than an e-mail survey.

Applying Survey Results to Business

One rare but probable disadvantage of phone surveys is that some customers may not take the initiative to complain to the agent while talking to the surveyor; instead, they will tell their friends and co-workers how good or bad their experience was. While most customers do provide great information on the experience of both service and product, all we need to do is interpret and apply the results to our business. Text (sms) surveys mainly used in the telecom domain are also an effective medium of measuring customer satisfaction.

A conglomerate of above factors affects the results of surveys and consequently the interpreted actions from them. The direction of these actions is entirely dependent on a fragile foundation of survey results, which may or may not be real. As a business owner you have to ensure that your actions (based on survey outcomes) are taking you towards your business goals and not away from them.

How Do We Ensure that We Are in the Right Direction?

By working smartly and relentlessly to improve our service by developing our people and ensuring that we have robust but customer friendly processes. Support your teams to capitalize on their skills, talents and subsequently align and translate to business performance. Drive that customer focus; you won’t get better audience and response than these times.

The need of the hour is also to innovate a blend of mediums to measure customer satisfaction along with continuous follow up to gauge the gap of reality between surveys results and the actual customer satisfaction. Re-evaluate the outcomes versus your own customer intelligence. This can be done by talking to some of your customers, listening to your call center interactions or a random follow up e-mail to a few customers. If satisfaction scores are up and your research proves that customer satisfaction is in fact high, then you are proven wrong, but your business benefits, and if not then you have something to work upon. Keeping in mind the quote, "What's difficult to measure is very often wrongly measured." Customer satisfaction is one of those things.

First published on Call Center IQ.