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Customer Satisfaction and the Service Business


The relationship between customer satisfaction and success of a service business is a direct one. Customer satisfaction measurement, however, is a much more complex matter. Customer satisfaction is a qualitative assessment of the services you provide, and therefore it is a surrogate measure of the value of your services to your customers.

The measurement method you choose can make makes a difference to the results obtained. Your motivation for measuring customer satisfaction will drive both your methodology for collecting the data, and what you do with it.

Client satisfaction data can be collected for:

  • Accountability

  • To use to influence or justify

  • Continuous improvement

Be clear about why you are collecting satisfaction data; to deliver a good report card (a primary motivation of units in a large corporation or public sector entity, or for businesses which are required to meet certain standards), or to diagnose and manage continuous improvement.

For a good report card, measure general satisfaction using a once-a-year survey. Every business wants a good report card, but that will not help you improve your performance. To obtain useful data you need to measure client satisfaction with specific attributes of your service at the time of the transaction.

Some tips:

  • As a psychological construct satisfaction is peculiar - results are always negatively skewed. The good news is that more people report being satisfied than dissatisfied. The bad news is that if you're getting less than a 95-98% satisfaction rate, you need to investigate, identify and fix the problem. And there's always the possibility that high satisfaction may indicate low expectation. Are your customers satisfied more because your competition delivers poor service and thus anyone who provides pretty ordinary service will get good customer satisfaction feedback?

  • The method you use for collecting satisfaction data can influence the results

  • Oral administration of satisfaction questions "improves" satisfaction by as much as 12% compared with written questionnaires - wonderful if you're looking for a good report, but something to watch out for if you're looking for information about in what areas you need to lift your game

  • Clients report higher levels of satisfaction if you frame the question positively than if you frame the same question negatively

  • Measurement at the time a service is delivered more accurately, reflects level of satisfaction and avoids the halo effect of one particularly good or spectacularly bad experience

  • Interviews deliver more complete and revealing answers but are expensive and dependent on interviewer skill and impartiality

  • Focus groups may not accurately represent the entire customer group

Finally, never forget that emphasis on satisfaction of current customer demands can inhibit the development of innovations that can meet the future, or current, but unstated, demands of those same customers. That's why you need to keep talking to them.

Try the one question survey: pick a question for a period of time and include it in every conversation you have with a client.

Jennifer Cram is a sought-after civil celebrant based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She has also has 30 experience as a manager in the public sector and has published numerous papers on measuring service performance. For more information http://www.jennifercram.com and http://www.alia.org.au/~jcram/

Copyright 2005 Jennifer Cram. You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated.


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