How to develop and improve Customer Satisfaction - Part One
Over the last few decades companies have increasingly begun to realize the importance of customer satisfaction. Where trading environments have become saturated and customers increasingly hard to come by, customer retention has become imperative. Business has concluded that customer satisfaction can therefore deliver financial benefit providing stability and a platform for growth, the alternative is a dissatisfied customer who seldom expresses their complaints they simply buy elsewhere.
Customer Satisfaction can be analyzed, measured and improved, the tools and methods required to build and improve it are wide and varied, however there is consensus over the basics of a toolkit of processes and polices that business can exploit as they aim to build customer satisfaction.
1/ Assess the customers needs
Aligning product and service offerings with customer needs can only be achieved when sufficient knowledge of customer requirements has been captured. Accurately understanding the customer’s needs is the most important step towards achieving customer satisfaction.
It’s worth pointing out that needs are often comprised of a mixture of both product and service offerings – for example – supermarket customers may be influenced over price and availability of products whilst also being influenced by how long they have to queue at the checkout.
There are a variety of methods for assessing customer needs from modeling and statistical techniques to more standard assessment methods such as observing and questioning current and prospective customers. Assessment often takes the form of market analysis, buying trends and behaviors and determining factors that influence the customer.
Needs assessment is an ongoing process and has various guises from questionnaires to workshops to complaints management. Fundamentally the customer is best placed to convey their needs and businesses should incorporate an appropriate strategy to track these.
2/ Ownership by Senior Management and involvement of the whole organization
Once the customers needs have been captured they should be championed by the whole organization. To succeed customer satisfaction should be incorporated as a corporate strategy which should be supported from the senior management downwards. For the strategy to succeed the voice of the customer needs to reach those at the very top of the organization and the VP or Management Director must champion the customers requirements and ensure that the business is shaped and resourced to deliver.
However, it doesn’t just stop with senior management, the whole organization needs to understand the requirements of their customers and the role they have to play in satisfying them. Involvement will usually mean more than a crudely drawn up corporate values such as “partnership” or “customer focused” but staff will be tuned to requirements, be involved in their delivery and be acutely aware of the impact on service levels. The whole business, including those in senior positions should be able to talk fluently and accurately regarding the levels of satisfaction within its customer base together with engaging and participating in improvement programs.
A tuned organization will target staff development to support a customer orientated strategy. Many organizations also link financial rewards with customer satisfaction performance – while this can be fruitful, businesses should ensure that incentives need to be placed correctly to deliver appropriate results.
In part two we'll look at the role of business structure in customer satisfaction.