Delighting customers and achieving high customer satisfaction scores in this environment is ever more difficult. And even if your customers are completely satisfied with your product or service, significant chunks of them could leave you and start doing business with your competition. A market trader has a continuous finger on the pulse of customer satisfaction.
Direct contact with customers indicates what he is doing right or where he is going wrong. Such informal feedback is valuable in any company but hard to formalise and control in anything much larger than a corner shop.
For this reason customer surveys are necessary to measure and track customer satisfaction. Developing a customer satisfaction programme is not just about carrying out a customer service survey. Surveys provide the reading that shows where attention is required but in many respects, this is the easy part. Very often, major long lasting improvements need a fundamental transformation in the company, probably involving training of the staff, possibly involving cultural change. The result should be financially beneficial with less customer churn, higher market shares, premium prices, stronger brands and reputation, and happier staff.
However, there is a price to pay for these improvements. Costs will be incurred in the market research survey. Time will be spent working out an action plan. Training may well be required to improve the customer service.
The implications of customer satisfaction studies go far beyond the survey itself and will only be successful if fully supported by the echelons of senior management. Some products and services are chosen and consumed by individuals with little influence from others. The choice of a brand of cigarettes is very personal and it is clear who should be interviewed to find out satisfaction with those cigarettes.
But who should we interview to determine the satisfaction with breakfast cereal? Is it the person that buys the cereal usually a parent or the person that consumes it often a child?
And what of a complicated buying decision in a business to business situation. Who should be interviewed in a customer satisfaction survey for a truck manufacturer — the driver, the transport manager, the general management of the company? In other b2b markets there may well be influences on the buying decision from engineering, production, purchasing, quality assurance, plus research and development.
Because each department evaluates suppliers differently, the customer satisfaction programme will need to cover the multiple views. The adage in market research that we turn to again and again is the need to ask the right question of the right person. Finding that person in customer loyalty research may require a compromise with a focus on one person — the key decision maker; perhaps the transport manager in the example of the trucks. If money and time permit, different people could be interviewed and this may involve different interviewing methods and different questions.
The traditional first in line customer is an obvious candidate for measuring customer satisfaction. But what about other people in the channel to market? If the products are sold through intermediaries, we are even further from our customers. A good customer satisfaction program will include at least the most important of these types of channel customers, perhaps the wholesalers as well as the final consumers.
One of the greatest headaches in the organisation of a b2b customer satisfaction survey is the compilation of the sample frame — the list from which the sample of respondents is selected. Building an accurate, up-to-date list of customers, with telephone numbers and contact details is nearly always a challenge. The list held by the accounts department may not have the contact details of the people making the purchasing decision. Building a good sample frame nearly always takes longer than was planned but it is the foundation of a good customer satisfaction project.
Customer satisfaction surveys are often just that — surveys of customers without consideration of the views of lost or potential customers. Lapsed customers may have stories to tell about service issues while potential customers are a good source of benchmark data on the competition. If a customer survey is to embrace non-customers, the compilation of the sample frame is even more difficult. The questionnaire design and interpretation are within the control of the researchers and these are subjects where they will have considerable experience.
In customer satisfaction research we seek the views of respondents on a variety of issues that will show how the company is performing and how it can improve. High level issues are included in most customer satisfaction surveys and they could be captured by questions such as:.
It is at the more specific level of questioning that things become more difficult. Some issues are of obvious importance and every supplier is expected to perform to a minimum acceptable level on them.
These are the hygiene factors. If a company fails on any of these issues they would quickly lose market share or go out of business. An airline must offer safety but the level of in-flight service is a variable. These variables such as in-flight service are often the issues that differentiate companies and create the satisfaction or dissatisfaction. What do they consider important? These factors or attributes will differ from company to company and there could be a long list. They could include the following:.
The list is not exhaustive by any means. Cryptic labels that summarise specific issues have to be carefully chosen for otherwise it will be impossible to interpret the results. Customer facing staff in the research-sponsoring organisation will be able to help at the early stage of working out which attributes to measure.
They understand the issues, they know the terminology and they will welcome being consulted. Internal focus groups with the sales staff will prove highly instructive. This internally generated information may be biased, but it will raise most of the general customer issues and is readily available at little cost. It is wise to cross check the internal views with a small number of depth interviews with customers.
Half a dozen may be all that is required. There are some obvious indicators of customer satisfaction beyond survey data. Sales volumes are a great acid test but they can rise and fall for reasons other than customer satisfaction. Customer complaints say something but they may reflect the views of a vociferous few. Unsolicited letters of thanks; anecdotal feedback via the salesforce are other indicators. These are all worthwhile indicators of customer satisfaction but on their own they are not enough.
They are too haphazard and provide cameos of understanding rather than the big picture. Depth interviews and focus groups could prove very useful insights into customer satisfaction and be yet another barometer of performance.
However, they do not provide benchmark data. They do not allow the comparison of one issue with another or the tracking of changes over time. For this, a quantitative survey is required.
The tool kit for measuring customer satisfaction boils down to three options, each with their advantages and disadvantages. The tools are not mutually exclusive and a self-completion element could be used in a face to face interview. So too a postal questionnaire could be preceded by a telephone interview that is used to collect data and seek co-operation for the self-completion element.
When planning the fieldwork, there is likely to be a debate as to whether the interview should be carried out without disclosing the identify of the sponsor. If the questions in the survey are about a particular company or product, it is obvious that the identity has to be disclosed. When the survey is carried out by phone or face to face, co-operation is helped if an advance letter is sent out explaining the purpose of the research.
Logistically this may not be possible in which case the explanation for the survey would be built into the introductory script of the interviewer. If the survey covers a number of competing brands, disclosure of the research sponsor will bias the response.
If the interview is carried out anonymously, without disclosing the sponsor, bias will result through a considerably reduced strike rate or guarded responses. The interviewer, explaining at the outset of the interview that the sponsor will be disclosed at the end of the interview, usually overcomes this.
Customers express their satisfaction in many ways. When they are satisfied, they mostly say nothing but return again and again to buy or use more.
When asked how they feel about a company or its products in open-ended questioning they respond with anecdotes and may use terminology such as delighted, extremely satisfied, very dissatisfied etc.
Collecting the motleys variety of adjectives together from open ended responses would be problematical in a large survey. To overcome this problem market researchers ask people to describe a company using verbal or numeric scales with words that measure attitudes.
People are used to the concept of rating things with numerical scores and these can work well in surveys. Once the respondent has been given the anchors of the scale, they can readily give a number to express their level of satisfaction.
Typically, scales of 5, 7 or 10 are used where the lowest figure indicates extreme dissatisfaction and the highest shows extreme satisfaction. The stem of the scale is usually quite short since a scale of up to would prove too demanding for rating the dozens of specific issues that are often on the questionnaire. Measuring satisfaction is only half the story. The measurement of expectations or importance is more difficult than the measurement of satisfaction.
Many people do not know or cannot admit, even to themselves, what is important. Consumers do not spend their time rationalising why they do things, their views change and they may not be able to easily communicate or admit to the complex issues in the buying argument.
The same interval scales of words or numbers are often used to measure importance — 5, 7 or 10 being very important and 1 being not at all important. However, most of the issues being researched are of some importance for otherwise they would not be considered in the study. As a result, the mean scores on importance may show little differentiation between the vital issues such as product quality, price and delivery and the nice to have factors such as knowledgeable representatives and long opening hours.
Ranking can indicate the importance of a small list of up to six or seven factors but respondents struggle to place things in rank order once the first four or five are out of the way.
It would not work for determining the importance of 30 attributes. However, in most of the cases the consideration is focused on two basic constructs as customers expectations prior to purchase or use of a product and his relative perception of the performance of that product after using it.
Expectations of a customer on a product tell us his anticipated performance for that product. As it is suggested in the literature, consumers may have various "types" of expectations when forming opinions about a product's anticipated performance. For example, four types of expectations are identified by Miller While, Day indicated among expectations, the ones that are about the costs, the product nature, the efforts in obtaining benefits and lastly expectations of social values.
Perceived product performance is considered as an important construct due to its ability to allow making comparisons with the expectations. It is considered that customers judge products on a limited set of norms and attributes. Olshavsky and Miller and Olson and Dover designed their researches as to manipulate actual product performance, and their aim was to find out how perceived performance ratings were influenced by expectations.
These studies took out the discussions about explaining the differences between expectations and perceived performance. In some research studies, scholars have been able to establish that customer satisfaction has a strong emotional, i. Especially for durable goods that are consumed over time, there is value to taking a dynamic perspective on customer satisfaction.
Within a dynamic perspective, customer satisfaction can evolve over time as customers repeatedly use a product or interact with a service. The satisfaction experienced with each interaction transactional satisfaction can influence the overall, cumulative satisfaction. Scholars showed that it is not just overall customer satisfaction, but also customer loyalty that evolves over time. It is negatively confirmed when a product performs more poorly than expected. There are four constructs to describe the traditional disconfirmation paradigm mentioned as expectations, performance, disconfirmation and satisfaction.
In operation, satisfaction is somehow similar to attitude as it can be evaluated as the sum of satisfactions with some features of a product.
Churchill and Suprenant in , evaluated various studies in the literature and formed an overview of Disconfirmation process in the following figure: Organizations need to retain existing customers while targeting non-customers. It can be, and often is, measured along various dimensions. A hotel, for example, might ask customers to rate their experience with its front desk and check-in service, with the room, with the amenities in the room, with the restaurants, and so on.
Additionally, in a holistic sense, the hotel might ask about overall satisfaction 'with your stay. As research on consumption experiences grows, evidence suggests that consumers purchase goods and services for a combination of two types of benefits: Hedonic benefits are associated with the sensory and experiential attributes of the product.
Utilitarian benefits of a product are associated with the more instrumental and functional attributes of the product Batra and Athola The state of satisfaction depends on a number of both psychological and physical variables which correlate with satisfaction behaviors such as return and recommend rate.
The level of satisfaction can also vary depending on other options the customer may have and other products against which the customer can compare the organization's products. Work done by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry Leonard L  between and provides the basis for the measurement of customer satisfaction with a service by using the gap between the customer's expectation of performance and their perceived experience of performance.
This provides the measurer with a satisfaction "gap" which is objective and quantitative in nature. The usual measures of customer satisfaction involve a survey  using a Likert scale. The customer is asked to evaluate each statement in terms of their perceptions and expectations of performance of the organization being measured. Good quality measures need to have high satisfaction loadings, good reliability, and low error variances.
In an empirical study comparing commonly used satisfaction measures it was found that two multi-item semantic differential scales performed best across both hedonic and utilitarian service consumption contexts. It loaded most highly on satisfaction, had the highest item reliability, and had by far the lowest error variance across both studies.
A semantic differential 4 items scale e. In the study, respondents were asked to evaluate their experience with both products, along seven points within these four items: Finally, all measures captured both affective and cognitive aspects of satisfaction, independent of their scale anchors.
Recent research shows that in most commercial applications, such as firms conducting customer surveys, a single-item overall satisfaction scale performs just as well as a multi-item scale.
Improving customer satisfaction with updated ISO series of standards By Clare Naden on 25 July We all know that retaining loyal, happy customers is the key to any successful business, but the fickle consumer world is not always easy to please.
A customer satisfaction code of conduct consists of promises, as well as related provisions, that address issues like product and service delivery, product returns, the handling of customer information, advertising, and product stipulations.
AS ISO — Australian Standard™ Customer satisfaction—Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations (ISO , MOD) AS ISO — Quality management -- Customer satisfaction -- Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations This standard has been revised by ISO ISO provides guidance on the process of complaints handling related to products within an organization, including planning, design, operation, maintenance, and improvement.
Measuring and Managing Customer Satisfaction. Establishing priorities and standards to judge how well you’ve met these goals. Before an appropriate customer satisfaction surveying program can be designed, the following basic questions must be clearly answered. Customer service standards and the current performance against those standards should be communicated to all employees on a timely basis. Notice boards, memos, email, team briefings, newsletters and the organisation's intranet are appropriate methods.