Cooperative Management Series: Conducting Customer Satisfaction Surveys
A cooperative has to be able to communicate with their customers in order to guarantee customer satisfaction. The easiest way to find out what the company is doing “right” and what the company is doing “wrong” according to their customer is to have them fill out a survey. The survey does not have to be long and contain unnecessary information. In fact, the survey just needs to contain questions that will obtain the cooperative information that will be useful in finding out who their competitors are and how they need to improve or stay steady to keep going strong.
Statement of Objectives
The key to a successful customer-satisfaction program is the survey guide. To create an effective survey guide you must first determine specific goals and objectives for the research. The goal of the customer-satisfaction program is to develop a set of actionable strategies that will improve repeat customer sales. A survey cannot cover every topic, so choose your objectives with care. A few examples of specific project objectives:
- To determine overall customer satisfaction with our products or services
- To identify customer perceptions of “key areas of weakness” and “key areas of strength”
- To measure and prioritize areas where improvement will most affect customer satisfaction
- To identify key competition and determine competitive position
- To determine the extent pricing affects repeat customer sales
- To develop a means to measure over time, the effect that increased customer satisfaction has on repeat customer sales
Being able to figure out a statement of objectives will serve for both an outline for the survey guide and as a framework for analyzing the results of the survey. Make sure that the cooperative has a specific goal at which they are trying to obtain by having their customers fill out a survey.
Once the “Statement of Objectives” has been developed then you will need to define the scope of the project. The “Project Scope” should answer some very important questions.
What group of customers you will interview? Are you concerned with new customers, strategic customers, or all customers? When will you interview them and how often will you interview them? Will this be the only time you interview your target group? Will you do it on an annual basis or a bi-annual basis?
How you will segment (group) the customers you interview? Customers can be grouped by geographic region, by sales volume, by industry, or by another category. How many of your customers you will interview? How you will interpret the results? (What type of results will you produce.) What special considerations need to be reviewed? Will the interviews be identified or anonymous.
The “Statement of Objectives” provides you with an outline for developing the survey guide, the “Project Scope” provides you with a framework of completing the project. The better the foundation the greater the likelihood of success; take time to craft a clear and concise project objective and a well-defined project scope.
With this next step it allows you to measure your progress against a specific set of goals and time line. Breaking it into phases helps to define the specific tasks that will be completed. The three phases at which this project can be completed is:
Phase 1 — Project Kickoff
Task 1: Meet with the project team to review the project objectives, project scope, and to assign key project tasks
Task 2: Develop the content of the survey guide
Task 3: Create a final form
Task 5: Test the survey guide and collection process
Task 6: Identify the source and availability of customer names and mail and e-mail addresses
Phase 2 — Survey Implementation
Task 1: Conduct a live pretest of the survey with team members
Task 2: Distribute the survey invitation to respond to the survey to the customers
Task 3: Monitor survey progress
Task 4: Distribute reminder notifications if required
Phase 3 — Results Collection and Reporting
Task 1: Collect the survey results and build the results database
Task 2: Clean and re-duplicate results
Task 3: Analyze survey results and produce final report
Task 4: Provide feedback of process for improvements with next survey
With a well defined set of objectives, scope, and methodology, it is time to start implementing the research. Two of the most important steps are the creation of the survey guide and the analysis of the survey results.
Creating the Customer Satisfaction
Customer-satisfaction guides will, and should be, different for each business. An example of a framework for developing your own survey guide:
Section A: Customer Information
- Customer name and address
- Products or services being used
- Account manager and/or service representative
- Length of time we have been providing products/services to customer
Section B: Customer Satisfaction
- Customer perceptions of our “key areas of weakness”
- Customer perceptions of our “key areas of strength”
- Identify areas where improvement will most affect customer satisfaction
- Prioritize areas where improvements will most affect customer satisfaction
- Measure overall customer satisfaction
Section C: Factors Determining Future Business
- Effect of pricing levels and pricing structure
- Competitive landscape
- Likeliness to continue purchasing products/services
- Key factors affecting future buying decisions
Section D: Closing
- Thank you for participating
- How results will be used
- Inform time frame for next survey
- Thank for continued support
The first section includes customer demographics, so you want to make sure you capture information you will need to group your customers when you analyze the results. The second and third sections focus on customers requirements and/or expectations.
In measuring satisfaction, you will need to have a base line against which to measure your performance. Another option is to compare the satisfaction of your customers to their satisfaction with a competitor. The measure of satisfaction over time or benchmark performance of a particular function of another industry is some more options. Any individual option or all of them together can be used when measuring customer service.
Analyzing and Reporting the Results
Analyzing and reporting the results can often be the most difficult task, but is should be straightforward if the correct steps had be taken. When analyzing customer satisfaction remember to keep your goal in mind. Increasing customer satisfaction is not the goal the goal is to increase repeating business. The first step in developing these actionable strategies is to identify what part of the customer relationship is affecting repeat business. We can then prioritize these based on a number of factors including:
- Our ability to develop an effective response within an appropriate time frame
- The effect that the response will have on our objective
- The cost of developing/ implementing the response
There are many different ways at which to analyze customer satisfaction, but keep in mind that the complicated techniques are available and might provide more insight.
The Feedback Loop
The feedback loop is critical to continue the improvement necessary to achieve ongoing success. With customer satisfaction research this means developing a process that continually measures the effectiveness of the customer satisfaction programs put in place as the result of the survey.
The objective of the survey is educate yourself about customer satisfaction and how to repeat customer sales. With brainstorming among your colleagues you can come up with the major issues to research and target customer groups.
Overall, a customer satisfaction survey is the easiest way to develop an actionable strategy that will improve repeat customer sales. Having repeat customer sales should be the company’s goal. Just remember to follow the outline:
- Statement of Objectives
- Project Scope
- Project Methodology
- Creating the Customer Satisfaction Survey Guide
- Analyze and Report the Results
- The Feedback Loop
Make sure that there are funds available for a customer satisfaction survey. Decide if you are going to design and manage the survey yourself or outsource it to a qualified market research company. Alert your management, customer service staff, and field sales reps that a survey is underway. Finally, prepare an action plan for dealing with survey findings.
Professor, Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair