Measure and Improve Customer Satisfaction
In order to measure and improve customer satisfaction, it is essential to understand what factors actually drive customer satisfaction. These are the factors that really matter to your business because they increase customer loyalty and cause repeat purchase.
Product Performance or Service Quality
The first step in measuring customer satisfaction is to assess the quality and performance of the product or service that you provide. The goal is to determine how well your product or service fulfills the function or need for which it is purchased. You will want to determine how well you are doing on an absolute basis and relative to your competitors.
Performance ratings by themselves are insufficient for measuring customer satisfaction. There are three additional factors which provide a more accurate measure of customer satisfaction:
Understanding customer expectations and then meeting or exceeding them is fundamental to creating satisfaction. Customers become satisfied only when a company meets or, better yet, exceeds their expectations. This is true regardless of the intrinsic quality of a company's product or service.
It is important to recognize that expectations are not static. Performance which satisfies a customer today may not be sufficient to satisfy that same customer in tomorrow's competitive environment. As a result, companies need to track changes in customer expectations over time and continually adjust in order to meet those changing expectations.
Quality of the Interaction
A customer's perception of his or her interactions with a company is another key driver of customer satisfaction. Quite frequently how a customer feels about the transaction (how he or she is being treated) is actually more important than the underlying quality of the product or service being purchased. Being treated poorly by a company leaves a damaging and lasting impression that is difficult to overcome.
Attitude or tone of voice is the key factor influencing how a customer feels about a service interaction. Company service people must listen and also indicate that they understand the customer's problem. Most importantly, service people need to express empathy for the customer's situation.
An important but frequently overlooked element of customer satisfaction research is the in-depth exploration of customers' problems. Respondents should be given the opportunity to report and describe in detail any problems that they have experienced. After learning about customers' specific problems, it is essential to find out how well these problems were resolved.
Problem resolution is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction. Most customers recognize that occasional problems are unavoidable and even inevitable. But the way in which a company responds to those problems is often the difference between retaining and losing a customer's business.
In many cases, we have found that good problem resolution actually increases customer satisfaction beyond the level which existed before the problem occurred. Customers who report that a company has exceeded their expectations frequently cite quick, customer-oriented problem resolution as the source of their satisfaction.
How to Use Results
True customer satisfaction research should help you determine the sources of your competitive strengths and weaknesses. It should identify specific functional areas that need improvement and provide direction about how to improve them. In particular, customer satisfaction research should help you increase customer retention and stimulate repeat purchase.