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18 August 2010

How Do You Know What Your Customers Really Think (Part 2)?

In my last blog I opened a discussion on customer exit surveys.  In this edition, I would like to start discussing how to find out what your clients think about you and your firm.

It isn’t as obvious as it may seem.  For example:

  • An agent trying to measure how he can improve referral business has very different questions than the agent trying to measure and improve listing or closing rates.
  • A back-office manager will want to measure client satisfaction (do you track internal as well as external client satisfaction?).
  • A manager who is looking to improve process efficiency needs different questions than the manager evaluating active personnel.
  • An executive may be looking for overall patterns of satisfaction to promote her firm–or discontent to correct it.

That’s at least seven specific targeted areas that the business should want to know, all requiring a different approach toward getting information from the client.  Can you get all those answers from one survey at one time?  If you tried it would be a very long survey and you would risk losing the audience.  How then do you pick which segments to probe?

Here are some of the most popular approaches to finding the good, the bad, and the ugly (props to Clint Eastwood):

  • The Top-Down Approach: An approach that can work with small numbers of transactions, this means looking at the business from 20,000 feet and then asking more specific questions based on results.  For example, asking general client satisfaction questions will likely expose the top and bottom performing areas, which will lead you to more specific questions that can isolate the sources of the good and the bad reviews.
  • The Bottom-Up Approach: This approach is better suited for support research that can utilize a large amount of data.  Once patterns and trends are identified, you can make assumptions about what is happening.  A risk with this approach is that the analyst can miss critical pieces of information by washing it out as abnormal data.
  • 360 degree:  If an organization has data and time, a great approach is to combine Bottom-Up with Top-Down.  In other words: analyze data, make assumptions, and use those assumptions as the starting point for a Top-Down analysis.
  • Straw Poll Approach: Sometimes the best way to start is by talking to the foot soldiers.  A manager can ask the agents, back-office staff, or a sample of clients a question like “What are the top two areas we can improve our customer experience?”   The answers may surprise you.

Do you measure internal or external customer service?  What approaches have you used to measure customer service?

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