You can't fix what's broken if you don't know that it's broken.
Customer Satisfaction surveys serve two primary purposes:
They tell you if customers are happy or not.
They help you understand what to fix, to make them happier.
But you'll only find out what to fix if you need to ask the right questions.
Earlier this week, I called National Car Rental customer service. I was in a hurry, and had a simple question that could be answered easily by a live customer service agent. But in order to reach a live agent, I had to navigate a phone menu from hell. None of the options was "to speak with a customer service agent, press x."
So I had to guess which options would lead me to customer service. As bad luck would have it, I guessed wrong a couple times, and had to start over. It became clear to me that National was trying their best to prevent me from talking to a live customer service agent. I hate wasting time, so I hated that experience. And I hated National for doing that to me.
By the time I finally reached an agent, she was polite, professional, and she quickly answered my question. But the good work that she did wasn't enough to outweigh my overall frustration with National Car Rental, because they made it so difficult for me to reach this kind person. I was so frustrated by the overall experience that I'll probably avoid doing business with National in the future. That's something that they should want to know.
But they'll never know it, because the post-call satisfaction survey only asked me about the agent; it didn't ask me how I felt about the overall experience. The survey question was too narrow.
I gave the agent high marks because she deserved them. But my praise for the agent belied my greater dissatisfaction with the entire experience. They didn't get the feedback they needed, because they didn't ask the right question in their survey. My honest answer about the agent left them thinking I'm a happy customer, even though I'm not.
The point is this: Design your surveys to find problems. The only way to do that is by asking the right questions; questions that are designed to address the places where hide.
So how do you do it? How do you craft a survey to that will find the problems worth fixing?
Be sure your survey focuses on the entire customer experience, not just one part of it. For example, instead of "How would you rate the customer service agent?", try, "How would you rate this service experience?"
In my case, the experience began the moment I dialed (800) 463-3334; not when the agent greeted me. Navigating the phone menu was indeed part of the experience, but the survey didn't ask me about that. If it did, I would have given National the honest feedback that they needed to hear. But they may never know.
Are your customer satisfaction surveys designed to find the right stuff?
It means a lot of things; some definitions can be long and drawn-out, while others are more succinct. But one thing is certain: You know "Customer Centric" when you experience it, and you know it when you don't.
I had an experience of the later variety recently. I was scheduled to have a stereo installed in my wife's automobile at a local electronics retailer. The dealer from which I bought the vehicle was covering the cost of the stereo and installation under the warranty. They gave me a purchase order number to give to the electronics store.
Thursday before the scheduled Saturday appointment, I phoned the store, gave them the purchase order number, and confirmed the appointment.
Then came Saturday. I arrived at 10am sharp, and introduced myself to the man behind the counter, who happened to be the manager. The manager was quick to tell me that they would not do any work, without receiving a purchase order directly from the auto dealership. Even though I gave the P.O. number to one of his employees over the phone, and that employee told me that I was "all set," the manager was quick to inform me that that was not the case, and that I must have misunderstood. And he said it with the classic "hey, that's not my problem - I just work here, and abide by the rules" demeanor.
The store manager's mind was stuck between the pages of the company's policy and procedures book, and as a result, couldn't see the my dilemma as I stood right in front of him. His focus clearly was not on the customer.
A more customer-centric approach would have been for the manager to offer me a seat in the waiting area while he took the intiative to call the dealership to confirm the P.O. number. Instead, he threw me - his customer - between the pages of his company's policy and procedures manual, essentially telling me to dig my own way out.
Customer-centric, in its simplest and most pure sense, means making the customer's life easy; designing processes that are focused on delivering a positive experience to the customer; making it extremely easy for the customer to learn about you, buy from you, and get support from you when they need it.
There are always situations where the designed process doesn't flow as smoothly as intended. And those situations are the ones where your "Customer Centricity" is really tested. When a process goes off the tracks, customer centric businesses don't let the customer feel the bumps. They stay focused on delivering a positive customer experience, while they absorb the bumps through alternative or ad-hoc procedures.
That's the essence of "Customer Centric" - keeping the customer at the center of your focus, to ensure that you're always delivering a positive experience, regardless of the circumstances. Consistently positive experiences delivered repeatedly are what keep customers loyal, and prompt them to tell others about you.
Customer Centric Definition #2: When something goes wrong, own the problem, so that your customer doesn't have to.