Customer satisfaction cannot be derived from a form

I could sit silent forever about this but it would age me a lot faster. I've got to confess and get it out into the open: Almost everyone is missing the boat on how to measure customer satisfaction and they are losing business! There, I said it. I feel much better.

I could sit silent forever about this but it would age me a lot faster. I’ve got to confess and get it out into the open: Almost everyone is missing the boat on how to measure customer satisfaction and they are losing business! There, I said it. I feel much better.

The enlightened move for businesses today is to focus on retaining current customers instead of trying to recruit a whole bunch of new ones. That’s just great. We have finally come to grips with the fact that, although it is more adventuresome to keep getting new customers and letting our old ones slip away, it is too costly. New customers cost a lot more to recruit than it costs to keep current customers. What a revelation!

Even still, many companies don’t quite understand how to keep customers. And I gotta tell ya, it’s starting to get to me. Every time I see a stupid customer satisfaction survey being handed to a customer from an employee I feel like mashing the employee on the head with a mallet. Everyone has the right intention. Everyone wants to please the customer and keep them. But the actions surrounding this process need some rethinking.

Ever had your temperature taken with a thermometer? Of course. Ever had your temperature taken with a pen? Obviously not. The pen has never worked for getting a temperature and it never will. If you are taking the customer’s temperature in regard to how satisfied they are, ask them. Open-ended, face-to-face questions are the thermometer. Giving the customer a ‘customer satisfaction’ handout just doesn’t work.

Consider the questions on these stupid customer satisfaction handouts. On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the cleanliness of our store? How would you rate the presentation of the product? How would you rate the taste of our coffee? Stop! What do these questions have to do with anything? Answer: we can quantify them. So what? Getting a 10 on store cleanliness has nothing to do with developing customer loyalty, which is the true measure of customer satisfaction. Do they come back? That is measurable. That is relevant.

If you really wanted to develop customer satisfaction, i.e. customer loyalty, ask them open-ended questions. Don’t give them a stupid form to fill out. Forms take too much time for the ‘valued’ customer. Have a manager or specially trained listener ask the questions at the end of the transaction.

Instead of asking for the cleanliness of the store, ask them for real input. For instance: If we wanted to earn your business on a consistent basis, what should we change about our operation? What product or service don’t we provide that you would buy if we did? What reason might you have for never shopping here again? These are questions!

If cleanliness were an issue for them, the customer would let you know. If presentation were an issue for them, the customer would let you know. You might be thinking, ‘Yeah, I hear what he’s saying, but how can I know I’m getting honest feedback?’

That’s easy. Have the best listener on your staff ask these questions to customers. When the customer gives a response, have that listener mirror the customers language as they record the response. The customer will automatically feel heard and feel important. They will provide feedback. It’s just human nature to provide opinions.

The final step is to implement the suggestions of the customers who come in the most. There is no substitute for taking action on customer suggestions when it comes to building customer loyalty. It’s the only way to go.

Use the amount of return business as a quantified measure of customer satisfaction. If you take your customer’s temperature the right way, you will know how to respond when they are not satisfied. Use a pen to take their temperature, and you’ll always be searching for new customers.

Thomas Winninger is the author of four books, including recently released Full Price: Competing on Value in the New Economy. He uses his expertise to help companies retool themselves to outthink, outmaneuver, and outlast the competition. For more information on Thomas Winninger, call 952-896-1900 or click to www.winninger.com.