I recently received a customer-satisfaction survey from a Holiday Inn in Louisiana where I stayed for several days on business. They wanted to know how I felt about my experience there.
So I told them:
My room was great.
The breakfast bar was excellent.
The location and layout of the hotel were perfect for my needs.
Treatment by front-desk staff was among the worst I have ever encountered. I interacted with the same woman on four different occasions and she was consistently cold and unfriendly.
Then the big question came: Would I stay at their hotel again? My answer was, “Not in this lifetime!” I questioned whether they know how to treat and value a customer.
I can’t help but wonder if my comments will result in change. I doubt it and that’s a shame because they will miss an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of their customer service. And customer service has an impact, one way or the other, on the bottom line.
Small telephone companies should do everything they can to measure their customer service. Small carriers are close to their customers and when the service they provide is personal, it’s really personal. Measuring allows them to fine tune their service and take it to an even higher level. That should translate into more sales and greater revenue. And if a large competitor suddenly looms, it could mean the difference between keeping or losing clients.
Earlier this year, the National Regulatory Research Institute at Ohio State University conducted a survey with 18,793 Internet users. One of the areas they measured was consumer perception of local telecommunications service quality and their perception of the price of local telephone service. Local telephone service received a score of 1.87 out of a possible 4.0, giving the industry a grade of slightly below a D+. Long-distance phone service and cellular received a 1.78.
To keep a pulse on your customers and the consistency and quality of the service they receive, you should always be asking them, “How are we doing?”
What do your customers say? Send a brief survey every month to a sampling of business and residential customers who have recently interacted with your company. Send it to customers that called to add additional features. Send it to customers that had repair issues or questions about their bill. The survey should go out immediately after the customer’s interaction with your staff while the experience is still clear in their mind.
Enclose a postage-paid envelope and offer to send them a prepaid calling card for a few dollars to show appreciation for their time and feedback. Doing a small monthly survey helps you measure the quality of the service your customers receive when they interact with both your office and field staff.
Call your customers. You can learn a lot when you listen to what your customers think about your service. While a mailed or e-mailed survey gives you a more statistical approach to a customer’s experience, talking with them will give you an entirely different perspective. We have found that it is often the small things that leave a customer with a less-than-average experience. Hire an outside company to survey your customers by telephone so that you will get a candid and objective view of their experience.
See it from a new customer’s view. Customers that you have been providing service to for a few years have a relationship with you. But what about those new customers that have had their phone, Internet and cellular service with some other company? Are their expectations being met when they interact with your company?
Hire a mystery shopping company (a firm that has people pose as customers) to call and/or visit your company as new customers. The shoppers will help you understand how someone sees your business for the first time. The results of those mystery shops will tell you if you are creating a positive, lasting first impression with your new customers. Is your staff asking questions to build rapport with your customers? Are they identifying customers’ needs? Do they offer additional products and services that you have available?
Mystery shopping will help uncover the areas that need the most improvement. These findings can help you identify the skills your staff needs to exceed customers’ expectations. Mystery shopping can be the measuring stick to monitor service and sales levels through the eyes of your customers.
Measurement as a tool. The results of any form of measurement are meaningless unless you choose to take steps to improve the customer experience. Decide the actions steps that can be implemented at every level of the company. What skills do your employees need to improve themselves and provide a better customer-service experience? What processes and procedures need to be revised, changed or removed to make doing business with you easier for the customer?
Measuring service is not a one-time event. A survey conducted two or three years ago won’t tell you what your customers are experiencing today. Technology is changing the way you serve your customers. If you don’t collect ongoing feedback about the quality of your customers’ experience and their needs, your competition may be eroding your profits.
When was the last time you asked your customers the question, “How would you rate your customer-service experience with our company?” If you can’t remember, maybe it’s time to ask!
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills training for utilities.