We often come across appealing slogans around customer satisfaction and are motivated to put in a greater effort to figure out how to improve it. But we often miss the scientific factors behind customer satisfaction. If we use both the art and the science of customer satisfaction, we will get better results. It is an art because it is an application of human creative skills, and it is a science because it is a systematic and logical activity.
But, does customer satisfaction really matter? Well, I believe that it does not, so long as you have customer loyalty. Loyalty is priceless. If you aim for customer loyalty, customer satisfaction comes along too. People often link customer satisfaction with loyalty but that is not true. There are methods to keep customers loyal, even though they may be dissatisfied, and we see the effective use of these methods by the airline and hotel industry. However, it is also true that a satisfied customer can be made loyal more easily than a dissatisfied one. So we cannot completely ignore customer satisfaction.
Before you make the attempt to improve customer satisfaction, you must first know who the customer is and what service he is looking for. This is very important because you may be targeting the wrong customer or delivering the wrong service.
In the context of enterprise service management, a service provider has two classes of service consumers - users and customers. Users use the service and customers pay for the service. A customer may or may not be a user and both have different criteria for satisfaction. User satisfaction is one of the criteria of customer satisfaction. In all engagements,service desk agents aim at user satisfaction while the Account Manager aims at customer satisfaction. In the subsequent discussion, we shall call them both, a customer.
The Importance of Customer Expectation
An important point to note is that customer satisfaction is NOT a matter of meeting or exceeding the SLA. It is a matter of meeting or exceeding the expectation, regardless of the SLA. It is quite possible to exceed an SLA yet fail on customer satisfaction just because the customer’s expectation was larger than the SLA; conversely, we could receive customer appreciation for the service that has breached the SLA just by managing the expectation appropriately.
If we do not do anything to set the expectation, then it will be set by default and that may impact customer satisfaction. That means, setting the right SLA is the first important thing to do, and delivering the service as per the SLA is the second!
How to set the right customer expectations
Communicate, communicate, and communicate – this is most important when setting the expectation. In the user service process, this can be automated via e-mail communications. The system can dynamically calculate the resolution time according to the SLA and proactively communicate about it. In customer relationship management, the account manager has regular discussions on the currency of the SLA and has the opportunity to set the right expectations.
Conduct a Survey: Ask the Customer
We must have some mechanism to find out whether our customers are satisfied. The best way to find out whether they are is to simply ask them. When we conduct a customer satisfaction survey, ‘what’ we ask them is very important. How, when, and how often we ask these questions is also important. Apart from letting us know whether the customer is satisfied or not, such surveys provide insights that can help us understand how to satisfy them better.
There are several types of surveys. Periodic and planned surveys target the customer segment, and event-based surveys target the end users.
The best time to conduct a survey is when the experience is fresh in their minds. The resolution of an incident for a user, or the fulfillment of a request are the moments of truth for such surveys. Even though event-based surveys are initiated because of a ticket transaction, the response provides a clue about the satisfaction or dissatisfaction beyond the transactional service. In most of our engagements, we run ticket-based surveys as well as annual CSAT surveys.
Act on the Survey
Surveys provide a great opportunity to mine insights on how to effectively manage customer satisfaction. But what we do with the results is of even greater importance. It is advisable to develop an improvement plan from these results, and it would be best if this improvement plan is made an integral part of the survey lifecycle.
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