Voice of the Customer: The Importance of Feedback Surveys

Customer Feedback Program

Monitoring the Voice of the Customer (VoC) should be one of the ongoing projects in any service program. One way to achieve this is to perform a customer feedback survey.

A Bain & Company study found a huge gap between the perception of executives—80 percent of whom think they are doing an excellent job of serving customers—and the perceptions of customers themselves. Only 8 percent of customers agree. Because of this, according to Bain, the average company loses more than half its customers every four years.

An important way to ensure customer service excellence is to measure satisfaction regularly for all customers in the distribution channel. Do not be satisfied with a single measure or survey instrument, though. Coordination and cross-checking among many survey formats is necessary.

The chief roadblock to success in customer surveys is the natural human inclination to do easy surveys. So, force yourself to move beyond obvious measurements to use difficult-to-articulate, controversial variables that determine long-term customer satisfaction and business growth. The distance that customers must walk to reach a service counter, the prevailing temperature level, decor and similar things all impact long-term customer attitude.

Conduct formal surveys of customers every 60 to 90 days. Less than 90-day frequency is risky. Customer preferences often change even faster than that.
Do informal surveys monthly, at least telephone surveys, for instance, or samples of customers as they are buying. Domino’s Pizza surveys every week.
A major annual image survey should be the backbone of the customer survey program. It should be done by a third party.

Other formal customer survey programs consist of:

1. Customer focus groups. Informal focus groups of a few customers should be convened not only in marketing but in manufacturing, distribution, and accounting departments, too.

2. “Debriefings” of key accounts. Employ “open-end” discussions.
Just asking customers what they are satisfied with and what they are dissatisfied with usually yields valuable information. Annual or semi-annual debriefings should include formal survey questions and open-ended discussions with all levels and functions.

3. Customer attitude surveys with random samples of customers. Puget Sound Power & Light Co. analyzes media coverage and listens to customer feedback from field personnel. In analyzing the media, the company looks for awards to the company and other civic recognition as means of assessing whether the community thinks the company is doing a good job.

“Creative” methods of obtaining information on customer opinion and attitude:

1. Visit your best customers when your customers are businesses. No better way exists for obtaining insight into customer needs and means of satisfying them than observing the work that goes on.

2. Prepare summaries of customer complaints. Collect data from all channels, phone, email, chat etc.

3. Post key customer satisfaction standards in every part of the
organization. Update them. Change them. Act on them.

Follow up on lost customers or lost sales. Find out exactly why you lost the
customers or the sales. More often than you might think you’ll find that an
“intangible” such as emotional reaction to service or incompatibility with an
employee was involved. Systematic “lost sale” follow-up programs are a must. Once you know why you lost a sale, action needed to prevent further losses for the same reasons usually becomes clear.

Every business that is serious about maintaining a high level of service must put in place a system that will sound alarm bells if and when service declines for any reason. By implementing a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program and performing customer feedback surveys you will be able to stay up to date with your customers’ opinions and attitudes— and in their values, needs and wants.

This article is adapted from “Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service” by John Tschohl.

About the Author

John TschohlJohn Tschohl is a customer service strategist and is the founder and president of the Service Quality Institute. John has been described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a ‘customer service guru’ and has written several highly acclaimed customer service books.

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