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Customer Satisfaction: Do You Assume or Have you Asked?

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on July 3, 2017

This is a 5 minute read.

Customer Satisfaction: Do You Assume or Have you Asked?How satisfied are your customers? Do you know or, do you simply assume that customer satisfaction with you is high? Does it surprise you to learn that true experts ask? 

Asking Your Customers How Satisfied Are They?

My role model for customer satisfaction is Cynthia Dean from Nufloor Canada.

When she was General Manager of Nufloors Coquitlam in British Columbia, she effected a data-based turnaround that started with customers and learning about their level of satisfaction with the store's shopping experience.

Her starting premise: we all know that happy customers will become repeat customers and that they will recommend you to their friends and family. 

However, how can you be sure that customers are happy?

As she explains further in an article she wrote titled "How satisfied are your customers? on the Surfaces Blog (which sadly is no longer available),

"I remember being in a discussion with a group of flooring retailers, and I heard one store owner comment, “I know I have a very high customer satisfaction rating because I hardly ever get any complaints”.  Really?  We know from research that only about 6% of unsatisfied customers actually complain.  These unhappy customers are far more likely to stop shopping with us, or worse yet, tell all their friends and family not to shop with us.  We may never know that our customer was unhappy."

Cynthia recommends - in no uncertain terms - simply asking the customer rather than guessing at customer satisfaction.

The first time she did this she used a low-tech 13-question paper survey (combined with some chocolate and a self-addressed stamped envelope) which she sent out to 500 customers. She then evolved to a yearly anonymous online survey.

The survey asks about first store impressions and progresses all the way to installation and follow-up and it allows respondents to add comments and feedback.

What You Learn From Customers is Eye-opening!

As Cynthia analyzed the data, she quickly identified what the store is good at:

  • Salesperson knowledge
  • Product selection
  • On-time measures
  • Timely quotes 

As well as areas that needed improvement:

  • Clean up after installation
  • Providing floor care and warranty information
  • Resolving issues in a timely manner

That information became the basis for on-going conversations with the organization to improve processes so details didn't fall through any cracks. For example, changing how customers received warranty and floor care information, and creating a customer issue tracking log.

Regular ongoing surveys enabled Cynthia and her organization to track improvements and identify new opportunities to develop and document a reputation for outstanding customer satisfaction.

Customer Satisfaction Survey Tips

Based on Cynthia's experience, she notes the following:

Survey your customers.  You'll find out that you don't know what you think you know. You'll also discover that customers are passionate about you and will give feedback.

Share what you learn from customers with your entire organization. Make everyone a part of the solution. From analyzing the responses, create an action plan that you implement. Then repeat the process. Be sure to measure results. What you measure, you can manage & improve. Furthermore, the process creates a halo effect from focusing on customers on an ongoing basis.

Simple ideas are effective in delighting customers. For example, have umbrellas with Nufloors imprinted available when it rains. Then, walk your customer to her car with the umbrella deployed!

From a practical perspective, Cynthia recommended the following for dealing with customer survey results:

  • Once you get feedback, don't get overwhelmed.
  • Take the easy ones first
  • Stay focused on 2 or 3 to work on
  • Be sure to research so you have hard data vs. gut feel
  • Develop an action plan.  Tackle problems at their root cause. Make one person responsible for the action plan. Monitor progress once a month, and stay committed.

Details In-Store and Online Matter to Your Customers

Survey feedback reinforced how important details matter to customers, starting with the physical store experience. For example, 
  • Creating an inviting store appearance that reinforces: ‘We Sell Fashion’ 
  • Cleaning the store carpets on a monthly basis
  • Steam cleaning the bathroom grout lines
  • Putting away flooring samples consistently
  • Ensuring clear sight lines to the back of the store
  • Banishing bits of paper stuck to the walls
  • Making sure that price tags are neat
  • Offering large umbrellas by the front door for customers to stay dry
  • Having a bowl of red and green apples and fresh flowers at the reception desk
  • Creating a comfortable seating area
  • Welcoming store visitors and offering them coffee & water
  • Keeping the parking lot tidy
  • In the spring and summer, growing flowers in the pots outside the front door
  • Selecting giveaway Nufloor pens that don't fall apart
  • Offering a chocolate bar for completing an instore survey

Doing so online means that your website is up-to-date and sales promotions are current, and that the information online matches what is shared in person. Ideally, too, you have a way of tracking customer information and matching it to sales information.


Tracking Data Makes for Happier Customers

It's important for satisfaction survey information to be anonymous so you get honest feedback.

However, as Cynthia mentioned, it's important to be able to track issues and properly match up customer information. An online tool that can help is a CRM or a customer relationship management tool that allows you to track conversations, interactions and important dates related to your customers (for example, birthdays or new home anniversaries). An effective CRM will allow you to set reminders, too.

Data allows you to have an honest conversation with your entire organization about customer service. And, if you business truly exists to delight customers than it will be in the habit of delighting employees, too. 

This means celebrating their successes, remembering their important dates and sending cards on birthdays or anniversaries. They are as critical to success as customers are and need to be treated as such. Focus on them and they will focus on the customer. It all starts at the top.

What Do You Know About Your Customers? Do You Assume or Do You Ask?

Cynthia is amongst the wisest retailers and business professionals I have met. She is observant and thoughtful and never assumes.

>> See What Goes Into a Thoughtful Retail Experience?

How do you determine customer satisfaction? 

If you survey, what do you ask?

What have you learned that was most surprising?

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This article was originally published on Sep 10, 2012 and has been updated. 

Topics: customer experience

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