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Win Loss Analysis and Customer Satisfaction Research
Key Considerations for Customer Satisfaction Analysis
Regardless of whether a Customer Satisfaction Analysis program is to be managed internally or externally, there are multiple considerations associated with developing and implementing such a program. One key consideration is determining the size and scope of the target sample set. Is it feasible and/or economical to survey all your customers, or does it make more sense to survey a subset? Many companies prioritize surveying their largest or most profitable relationships, while others survey a random sampling of customers to get a broader view of the customer experience.
Another important consideration is the medium by which you will conduct the survey. On-line surveys are inexpensive and increasingly commonplace, yet their expected response rate is lower than other survey methods. An online B2B customer satisfaction survey can typically expect a response rate in the neighborhood of 20%, while a paper survey can usually get closer to a 30% response rate. Anova uses a hybrid approach of paper, on-line, and telephone surveying techniques, with the goal of allowing target respondents to participate in the survey in the fashion which is most convenient to them. In B2B customer satisfaction surveys, Anova typically experiences a response rate above 50% with this hybrid approach.
The breadth and length of the customer satisfaction survey instrument itself are also important decisions. Some companies ask detailed questions on every possible facet of the customer experience, while others prefer to focus on overall impressions or conduct “deep dives” on specific product or service features. While most customers appreciate being asked for their opinions, they have time constraints that must be respected. A balance must be struck between respecting a customer’s time and gathering enough actionable data to make improvements in service. For example, in a current trend, some companies have reduced their customer satisfaction analysis to a single question regarding whether the customer would recommend the company to peers. However, these same companies often find that they lack sufficient detail on the root causes of dissatisfaction to be able to make a targeted effort to improve the baseline results.
Surveyed customers also want to know how the information they provide will be used to their benefit. A best practice among firms who conduct Customer Satisfaction Analysis is to communicate some of the findings to participating customers, summarizing strengths and areas for improvement, as well as a high-level action plan for how the feedback will be addressed moving forward.
The final and perhaps most important consideration is establishing whether one’s program will be managed with in-house resources or by external professionals. In many organizations, Customer Satisfaction Analysis is either conducted by a company’s in-house marketing or research department or by generalist market research firms. Internally-managed programs can be effective, but most companies lack the expertise and resources to successfully implement a comprehensive Customer Satisfaction Analysis initiative. More and more companies are reallocating their internal resources and outsourcing their Customer Satisfaction Analysis to specialized firms that have expertise in business-focused, forensic market research. Dedicated external specialists not only tend to bring a higher level of expertise to the exercise, they also are better positioned to serve as independent and objective intermediaries between customers and product/service providers. The benefits of independence are twofold: first, customers are often more willing to be open and direct with independent researchers, which means that companies that manage their programs externally tend to receive more candid feedback, and in larger quantities, than those that manage their programs in-house. Second, by removing personal feelings or internal politics from the equation, the quality of the feedback that is transmitted back to the product/service provider is likely to be more actionable. It is easier for an outsider to receive, synthesize, and explain difficult or uncomfortable customer feedback than for an internal researcher.
When implemented thoughtfully and purposefully, Customer Satisfaction Analysis is an extremely powerful tool for maintaining and renewing the loyalty of a company’s most important prospects – its current customers.