Do your customers believe you treat them well? Of course it helps if your company (or division or your group or you personally) actually has a vision and best practices to treat your customers well. I am not going to address today how to treat customers like human beings. There are textbook examples in management classes that cover techniques to address this. We all know that companies that take this seriously are few and far between. Who among us hasn’t been infuriated by endless phone trees when trying to troubleshoot our phone service, trying to find the contact information for our dish or cable service when it is down or getting a timely refund on an overpayment? (You know how fast a company will respond if you underpay.) For a great blog on the tone of customer service that companies set at the executive level, see this blog by Patty Azzarello on “Customer Cost or Care”.
So back to my original question: Do your customers believe you treat them well? At the company where I work, we take customer service seriously because as a consulting company our ongoing success depends on how our customers feel we treat them. The answer to this question should be of great importance for product managers, business analysts, general managers, consultants or any business role that deals with customers and has a stake in how they feel they are being treated by your company.
We use a simple assessment to measure how well we are doing. Rather than asking the customer to fill out a long questionnaire, we use a “Customer Referenceability” metric, Net Promoter Score, based on a 2003 Harvard Business Review article by Fred Reichheld “The One Number You Need to Grow”.
Reichheld’s premise is “Companies spend lots of time and money on complex tools to assess customer satisfaction. But they’re measuring the wrong thing. The best predictor of top-line growth can usually be captured in a single survey question: Would you recommend this company to a friend?”
We formally ask each customer for feedback on the work performed. This is done at pre-determined points for each project depending on the project’s size and duration (e.g. quarterly for long projects). Our assessment only asks one question with an optional follow-up for comments:
- On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is low and 10 is high, how likely are you to recommend our company to a colleague or professional contact?
- Please provide comments regarding your rating.
For each project, we survey a mix of people in various roles within our stakeholder group, including people reporting to the stakeholders that we work with on a day-to-day basis. The score is a simple calculation: NPS = % of Promoters – % of Detractors.
This single metric is very powerful. If there is a situation with a low number, the customer can spend their time providing good feedback for corrective action rather than answering a long questionnaire that misses their real concerns.
Since the time of Reichheld’s article, there has been much debate among academicians and market researchers about whether one question is adequate or whether important information is lost by not asking more questions. There are groups and individuals on both sides of the debate. Since I do not have a PhD in organizational management, psychology or business administration, I can only offer my personal two-cents worth of observation from many years of experience – busy professionals don’t like to fill out long surveys with questionable value for them. Many restaurants do customer surveys with a link to a web-site to fill out the survey printed on the receipt. They provide a free appetizer or dessert as an incentive. If you are in a service business that can’t offer a free dessert to compensate for filling out a long questionnaire, consider using a Net Promoter Score to measure how well you are providing business value to your customers. If your customers say you are not providing value, do something about it.