The latest international best practice on customer satisfaction from the ISO standards body builds upon work started more than 30 years ago.
A lot has changed in that time, though many principles remain the same: happy customers are worth having, and without effective systems in place it can be very hard to know how customers are thinking.
One thing is for sure. Surveys play a big part in keeping abreast of customer satisfaction, and it’s vital to ensure an optimum frequency and length or risk losing out on valuable insights.
Don’t make surveys a box-checking exercise
Businesses that provide a good customer experience achieve higher revenues and market share. Many will have ISO 9001 quality management systems in place, and / or be compliant with the ISO 10002 certification for customer complaint handling and its associated standards.
In fact, the ISO’s most recent research shows that improved customer satisfaction is the #1 influencing factor behind seeking ISO 9001 certification.
ISO standards (and other similar best practice certifications) are well-regarded business achievements that show a business-wide commitment to organizational excellence.
But the process of attaining those standards depends on your mindset. Some will set out from base principles to use the guidelines to design new and improved systems, possibly even from scratch. Others are going to look for shortcuts and treat it as a box-checking exercise.
So when a standard calls for ‘regular customer satisfaction surveys’ or even ‘customer satisfaction surveys at least once per year’, the precise application of that requirement could take any number of forms.
Make no mistake – applying it correctly is absolutely critical. Simply meeting the standard could do a huge disservice to the goals underlying the certification.
Imagine a ‘Goldilocks zone’ for customer surveys
Some customer experience professionals believe in the existence of a ‘sweetspot’ for customer surveys; a Goldilocks zone that is neither too hot (irritating customers with question overload) nor too cold (skewing data through surveys that are too sporadic or that barely anyone responds to), but ‘just right’ in terms of frequency and length.
This is intended as a helpful thinking framework rather than a complex scientific theory for customer satisfaction strategy. Some of the golden rules for such a framework should include:
- Having a frequent enough survey to ensure consistent feedback (i.e. annually is a bad idea; what if a critical issue happened 11 months ago and you only just asked them now?)
- Making sure that any such survey had the minimum necessary number of questions so that customers don’t get fatigued
- Timing the survey to be as relevant as possible to the customer journey/experience
- Keeping the survey simple, clear and intuitive to ensure the integrity of data
- Making the survey extremely unobtrusive to the customer experience, thereby maximising response rates
Don’t judge customer feedback as good or bad, but ‘insightful’ or ‘vague’
Customer A is unhappy and might never buy from you again. That is information, not insight. If a boyfriend or girlfriend was unhappy and wanted to end your relationship, that information is simply not enough to get by on. You’d want to know why so that you could do something about it, or at least understand how it could have been avoided.
In other words, knowing you’ve had good or bad feedback is not enough. Having enough flexibility in the way you set customer satisfaction surveys is a critical part of any customer strategy, and should have a bearing on your ISO 9001 / 10002 efforts. Use follow-up surveys to pinpoint issues that earlier questions have identified.
Remember – the precious insight garnered from monitoring and analyzing customer satisfaction can support a range of business objectives, from product development and strategy to business processes optimization. It can help retain customers for longer and even turn them into advocates for your brand.
If you need a more unobtrusive way of surveying your customers, see how Customer Thermometer’s in-email survey can help. Send yourself an example: