NEWS AND RESOURCES

General Business News for September, 2010

Customer Satisfaction Important to Company's Bottom Line

When was the last time you asked your customers if they were happy with your products or services? No news is good news, right? Wrong!

While clients might seem happy, how much do you really know about their level of satisfaction with your company? A negative experience will most likely be brought to your attention, yet when it's smooth sailing, you probably won't receive any feedback.

According to Customer Think, retaining clients adds as much as 10 percent to 25 percent to your bottom line. Satisfied clients will remain customers for life and are more likely to refer you to friends and family. How can you receive timely feedback that will enable you to offer better service?

Pick up the Phone
Clearly, there are two ways to get in front of your customers – by phone or in person. The in-person approach is ideal because you can meet face to face, but for companies that serve clients in diverse locations, that might not be realistic.

The next best thing is to pick up the phone. Although spontaneous, it's likely that the client will appreciate your call. This tactic sounds elementary, but when was the last time you actually did it?

Create a Meaningful Conversation
What do most of us do when we make a call? After asking about the weather and other small talk, we get to the reason for the call. Remember: You want to know whether the customer is happy with your offerings.

Here's where you can be strategic. If you ask, "How are we doing?" you'll most likely get an answer along the lines of "Good" No one likes confrontation, and unless there was a very recent problem, you won't get much more feedback.

Instead, present a statement that requires a longer answer. For example, "We haven't had an in-depth conversation about your business in a long time. Let's talk about that."

No matter how the conversation goes, you'll get some valuable comments on how you're doing. If the feedback is positive, great! If not, don't get defensive; find a way to turn a negative into a positive.

Put it in Writing
Another way to measure satisfaction is to send a questionnaire or survey. Surveys do work, but if you are intent on determining your value through this method, it might be the most painful way to find the answers.

A survey is a time burden because it requires quite a bit more activity than picking up the phone. You have to write the questions, send them and wait for a response. Most likely, you'll have to call or send email reminders asking the customer to complete the survey. Make sure the survey is not too cumbersome and that it doesn't take too long to complete.

You also must be prepared to do something with the results. If you ask for feedback - and it's good - you naturally want to respond. If the feedback isn't so good, you might be squeamish about responding to negative comments. However, no response from you tells the customer that you do not value their business.

Survey Pointers
Creating a great survey isn't difficult, and there are many online resources that can help. Keep these points in mind:

  • Keep it short and make it clear - no more than one page and avoid clever wording or jargon.
  • Abide by the Rule of 10 - use a 10-point scale (1 = poor, 10 = excellent), asking the client to rate satisfaction in no more than 10 areas.
  • Make it available online - SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang offer simple, free online survey tools.
  • Include a return deadline - and make sure that it is prominently displayed.

Avoid Email
Email is everywhere and very useful, but this is one time to avoid it. Although it solicits a fairly immediate response, asking customers if they are happy through email can come across as cold and impersonal. While email is good for sending a survey, it's not very good for quality customer feedback.

Instead, stick to the phone. There's nothing wrong with sending a follow-up email once you've talked on the phone, but avoid it at all costs during your initial conversation.

Have a good September!

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