Customer Satisfaction
Improving Customer Satisfaction Once a Customer Satisfaction Measurement Program Is in Place

Customer satisfaction research is not an end unto itself. The purpose, of course, in measuring customer satisfaction is to see where a company stands in this regard in the eyes of its customers, thereby enabling service and product improvements which will lead to higher satisfaction levels. The research is just one component in the quest to improve customer satisfaction. There are many others, including:

We will touch on each of these issues briefly.

Top Management Commitment

Top management, through its actions, must show that customer satisfaction is important to it. This can be done in several ways.

  • Acknowledging areas where the company needs to improve,
  • Allocating appropriate resources to the improvement of customer satisfaction,
  • Involvement of management and employees in the development of plans for customer satisfaction improvement,
  • Linking management bonuses to satisfaction scores,
  • Clear and frequent communication of what is being done to improve customer satisfaction.

Linking of Customer Satisfaction Scores With Employee and Management Monetary Incentives

This really is just a case of having management put its money where its mouth is. Monetary incentives for improving customer satisfaction scores should reach all levels of the organization, from top management to front-line employees and suppliers. Incentive programs can be structured so that all employees in an organizational unit receive compensation if the unit's customer satisfaction goals are met. Additionally, exemplary service on the part of individual employees can be rewarded on an ad hoc basis. Management incentives do not have to result in incremental expenditures; a reallocation of current incentives will suffice. For example, if 100% of a manager's bonus is dependent upon meeting operational and sales goals, the mix could be changed to include a customer satisfaction goals.

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Recognition of Employees Who Contribute to Customers' Satisfaction

This is an inexpensive way to foster customer satisfaction. The keys to success are:

  • Making sure that all employees are aware of why a particular employee is being recognized,
  • Making sure that each employee being recognized is worthy of recognition.

Identification, Measurement, and Tracking of Operational Variables Which Drive Satisfaction Scores

The results of a customer satisfaction survey need to be evaluated to determine what needs to be improved. For example, a survey may find that customer waiting times need to be reduced. The next step should be to quantify actual customer waiting times, and to set goals and strategies for reducing them. Goals should be as specific as possible. It is better to say "we want to reduce wait times during peak periods from an average of twenty minutes to fifteen minutes by the end of June," than to say "we need to reduce customer waiting times."

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Customer-Based Improvement Goals

This ties directly to the previous point. Once you have identified what needs to be improved, you need to develop a plan for improving each identified area. Such plans need to be based on what customers really need, rather than what management believes to be a good goal. Using the previous example, if customers really desire wait times of ten minutes or less, having management dictate that wait times must be reduced to fifteen minutes will have limited appeal with customers. You may need to do a separate survey with customers to actually set appropriate goals. If this is not economically feasible, at least talk to a number of customers and gain their input before setting a goal.

Plans for Improving Operational Variables

Once you have established what needs to be improved, and how much it needs to be improved, plans need to be developed to make improvement happen. The keys to successful planning are to:

  • Involve front-line employees and management in the planning process,
  • Make sure plans are specific,
  • Evaluate the success of plans once they have been put into place. This is done by measuring actual improvement in operations and customer satisfaction.

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Incorporation of Customer Satisfaction Skills into Employee Training Programs

Employee training programs should be modified to include:

  • A description of the importance of customer satisfaction to the company,
  • Descriptions of what keeps customers satisfied,
  • A description of customer satisfaction measurement programs, recognition programs, and incentive programs,
  • Specific employee-performance expectations with regard to keeping customers satisfied.

Measurement of And Plans for Improvement of Employee Satisfaction

Unhappy employees will have difficulty in keeping customers happy. You should consider measuring the satisfaction levels of employees, and then developing action plans to improve employee satisfaction.

Changes in Corporate Hiring Practices

Certain types of people will do a better job of satisfying customers than will other types of people, regardless of the quality of training, reward, and recognition programs. Once you have determined the types of employee behaviors are important to customers, you should incorporate this knowledge into your hiring practices.

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