Objective Measures: Client Satisfaction
As the second part in this series, I’d like to discuss how to objectively measure client satisfaction. We’ll do this in 4 parts: Why We Do It, Ways to Measure It, and the Way I like to Do it, and What to Expect.
I’ve posted before about the cost of new client acquisition. Given that new clients cost you more to get, keeping the clients you have is, in essence, higher margin revenue since you typically don’t have the associated selling costs. However, its hard to keep clients if you don’t know you are keeping them happy. Hence, objectively measuring customer sat helps you determine if you are merely doing good enough or if you are truly delighting your client. So, you measure to know and you need to know to keep.
Ways to Measure
Start with what questions you care about. Put another way, if you could sit down with the client in person, what questions would you want them to answer? Is it about on-time delivery, excellence in project management, quality of deliverables, overall excellence? Or is it simply “Are you delighted?”.
Next, what’s the scale against which the answer is made? Do you want free form text so they write what they want or do you want a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) measure? The first often give you great data, the second is far easier to analyze and parse. You can use a combination – that way the free text gives the client a more open forum to express issues outside of the context of the measured questions. If in doubt, go with the 5 or 10 point scale and a single Other Comments field – its easier for everyone to understand.
Next, the platform. You can use products like SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Eloqua, or ConstantContact to automate the data collection process. The first and second are single purpose and pretty cheap. The last two are marketing automation tools that will help you tie the results into marketing data. If you are just starting, try just using email to reach out the client, and then move up to automated surveys later.
Next, track and report the results. Report to your team, your clients and use it in marketing. Store the history and watch the trend. Most importantly, set the benchmark (and no, its not 100% satisfaction – that isn’t cost effective) and manage the result to the benchmark.
Last, how to start: pick a small sample of clients, tell them what you are doing, and ask them to participate. Start small, and work in progressively through your entire org.
Way I Recommend
This isn’t the way my company does it today, but here’s what I recommend:
- Ask one question - “Are you completely satisfied with our work and would you recommend us to our other business associates?” If the answer is a yes, score it as a 5. If the answer is a no, schedule an in person follow up to discuss the details.
- Ask this question after every major project and after the completion of any discrete piece of work. For example, if you are conducting a 3,000 seat Exchange rollout, do it after the project is over and you get sign off. If a customer calls with a request to create 3 new FRx reports (the Dynamics financial report writer), call when they are done. You can do mid-project surveys, but I prefer to handle that via project management rather than survey.
- Ask the question to both the person(s) that controlled the project, the person(s) who derived business benefit from the project and the project sponsor(s). Typically, this would be the client’s project manager and the CIO/CFO. At a minimum, you must survey the folks that hired you, worked with you and paid the bills ON THAT PROJECT.
- The person asking the question CANNOT be the project manager or anyone from the consulting or sales staff that was involved in the project. It should be an independent party, but not a clerical staffer. Alternatively, you can automate it (see above) – we do to good result.
- Prepare a standard follow up document but ALWAYS do the discussion in person and include the account owner from your company. The standard follow up document should have at a minimum one question related to timely delivery, quality of the deliverable, quality of project mgt, accuracy of sales expectations, accuracy of invoicing and accounting, knowledge of the consulting staff and overall impressions (ex: On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being Very Poor, 5 being Excellent"). This give you the scoring mechanism for anything less than a 5.
- Take the result back to the office and MAKE CHANGES BASED ON THE FEEDBACK. If you don’t you’ve wasted your time and made the client believe you really don’t care what they think.
- Once the change is made, call the client and tell them what you did based on their feedback. Set a follow-up meeting in no less than 3 – 6 mos (assuming you’ve done work with them again) to review and see if you’ve improved.
- Lastly, tie comp plans, all the way to the consultant level, to customer sat scores. This is a pretty complex issue which I don’t have room to explore in this post, but may in a later post.
Two critically important things to remember:
- Don’t do any of this unless you are willing to talk to the “no” people AND make changes
- You have to do the follow up in person. Phone if you have to, but in person makes all the difference. Done right, you can actually sell additional work in the meeting.
What to Expect
First, your initial response rate, unless you bug them, is going to suck. We regularly get 85% response rates, but it takes nearly a .5 FTE during our survey cycle to get to that (we typically survey around 100 customers each time.
Second, expect surprises. We found out our invoicing inaccuracies, which weren’t many, caused significant sat issues. This lead to a really good improvement process around our use of Dynamics GP (which is still ongoing), which made us better for our clients AND more internally automated.
Third, expect them to keep dredging up the past. Even though you are surveying on the last piece of work or the project you did, they’ll tend to rank you based on the overall experience with you. Done well, the above is a good way to get them to admit success – don’t forget the personal contact.
In closing, I can’t stress this enough: this process is about helping you to improve so you can serve your clients better so you can bill more time at lower cost to you. It must be done as personally as possible, and must be done with a commitment to change. If you aren’t ready to change and communicate that change to the client, don’t do it.