By Rosemary Plorin
Industry success, whether you’re operating in healthcare, professional services, not for profit, education, hospitality or any other sector, depends on the satisfaction of shareholders, customers, donors and regulators.
Effective branding, social media engagement, marketing and communications all point to one goal: to gain customers and keep them. Customer satisfaction is the key to attaining and keeping customers, but to get the most benefit, it must be accurately measured.
Here are some new approaches to measure your company’s customer satisfaction and tips for how to use what you learn to take the client experience to the next level.
Online surveys can be useful tools in providing detailed, relevant and actionable information to gauge customer satisfaction, identify new product ideas or uncover barriers to sales and success. But in today’s world, online surveys are old hat. We’ve taken them a hundred times and feel like we know the next question before we hit enter. And most often, we’re eager to hit that button so we can complete the survey and move on to more pressing matters.
Survey fatigue is one of the biggest challenges to running a successful online research effort. Survey participation rates in 2015 fell to an estimated 2 percent. Saturation is certainly part of the problem, but time-strapped clients and short attention spans are also to blame. What can you do to encourage participation? Here are three formatting tips to encourage participation:
- Offer incentives: Research indicates that offering free value-added content, a discount off purchases, cash rewards or other incentives can increase response rates 10 to 15 percent. Keep in mind that the more highly compensated the research target, the greater the value of the incentive. CEO incentives (in the form of luxury items, gift cards or charitable donations) may need to be $250 or more to secure participation.
- Make surveys suitable for mobile: It’s projected that in 2016 more than 50 percent of surveys will be conducted on mobile devices. Smaller screens mean videos are out, graphics, if used at all, should be small and the survey should not force users scroll too much. Avoid complicated tools, such as dropdown menus and matrices.
- Format questions to encourage participation: Keep questions short and concise, ask no more than 20 questions per survey, begin with the most important questions and include open-ended questions to give the participant a chance to explain details.
Formatting the survey is only part of the equation, however. Before you begin developing questions, determine your target audience. Will you ask for feedback from existing clients, potential customers, sales leads or some other group? Keep in mind that one size rarely fits all. Once you’ve identified your target audience, think about the data you’d like to acquire.
Effective customer satisfaction surveys utilize multiple choice or ranking questions, asking the respondent to rate an experience (usually a single, recent event), if the product or service was of the quality expected, three or four specifics about the purchase and how likely the customer is to recommend the product or service to others.
The most important questions in the entire survey are open-ended questions about how the experience could have been better. Ask how the customer would improve the product or service: what one thing would they change about their recent experience and why? Questions like these give measurable indications about your company’s performance and actionable feedback, which is invaluable. The goal of a survey should never be to secure a pat on the back. You’ll learn more by listening to what you did wrong than what you did right.
The advantage of asking recent clients to respond to a survey immediately after a purchase or interaction is twofold: it helps demonstrate your genuine interest in understanding what customers think, and it gives customers who may have had a less than favorable experience the opportunity to voice a complaint in a timely, productive way. You have the opportunity to fix the problem, the client feels valued and, because they had a forum in which to voice their displeasure immediately, may refrain from posting a negative online review. It’s a win-win.
Surveys can be used to impact customer satisfaction in indirect ways as well. For example, creating an internal survey using Survey Gizmo that targets team members on the customer service front lines can bring valuable feedback about what is and is not working. A survey also gives team members a forum to suggest ways to make improvements.
Measuring Customer Satisfaction: Beyond Surveys
Although well-done surveys are an essential tool in every marketer’s toolbox, surveys shouldn’t be the only measure of customer satisfaction. Customer loyalty is a hard numbers measurement that provides valuable insight into client-based behavior. Compiled data can be utilized in a number of ways: improving sales and service, tracking promotions, enhancing human resources and refining marketing efforts. High levels of customer loyalty equals accelerated business growth.
Keep in mind that customer loyalty can be measured both in objective and subjective frameworks. Objective customer loyalty measurement, like the multiple choice survey questions discussed above, uses system-captured data to provide hard numbers about customer behavior. Historical records, purchase records, time spent on the company website,buying frequency and whether or not a customer purchased recently can expose problems and define patterns.
Subjective is a type of soft number measurement. Answers to open-ended survey questions, feedback from inbound service calls, customer recommendations, and online comments, engagement and reviews can be softer indicators of customer loyalty and satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).
Use a combination of subjective and objective methods to create a road map to take your customer satisfaction to the next level.