Measuring customer satisfaction

Measuring customer satisfaction can be a difficult task for large companies. However, bigger firms do have the advantage of being able to use statistical data about their customers to calculate the best way to improve service. This is equally true if the thing they want to improve is the extent to which their service appears personal.

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"This particular librarian might find it tough to improve customer satisfaction," argued PRefect. To no avail.
For instance, there was once a customer survey performed in a library. The survey found that library’s visitors believed that the service was poor, there were no books, the toilet facilities were awful and the light in the reading rooms was insufficient. In fact, you name it, the customers hated it.

The same survey also attempted to establish the factors that were most important to the customer. The number one issue that came up in this survey was personal service.

Furthermore, the differential between the current, poor, level of personal service and the value that the customer placed on it was greater than the differential between any other factor and the importance placed on that factor by the customers.

So the market research firm running the survey told the library to do only two things. The first was to hand books back to the visitors at the check out desk, instead of simply sliding them across the service. The second was to thank the customers by name (using the name on their library card).

The library put this plan into action, but didn’t improve the toilets or the lighting or any other factor. When the market research firm came back to do their second survey they found that the customers thought the personal service had improved enormously.

However, they also found that the customers now thought the toilets were great and the books were easier to find. Not only this but they also thought there were more books and the lighting was better. None of this was true – but the customer’s perception had changed.

The library had put into practice one of the oldest tricks in the customer satisfaction book (excuse the pun). They had improved the thing that customers thought was most important and that they were least good at.

Industry data suggests that this is always the case when this kind of improvement scheme is put into place. This is great news for people with a sufficiently large amount of customers to be able to conduct this king of survey.

But what about those of us who have too few customers to do this? I’ve only got six clients, so a survey like this isn’t going to work – even if I were to include all of the people in each customer’s decision making unit. So my question this month is, “how does one go about judging customer satisfaction without the luxury of statistics”. Should I just be looking for smiling faces, or are there other techniques that could be applied?

Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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