How often have you come across people who themselves feel that their customers are not satisfied with the products or services they receive from their company? All of us are absolutely convinced of the high quality and competitiveness of our products or our services on the market. But everyone has his own subjective view and so does the client. Let’s get rid of our own point of view and look from the outside objectively at the problem of customer satisfaction with the results of your work. No, not because ISO 9001 makes such a requirement. We do it because we want to serve our customer better. We want our business to grow and grow. And those things are related. There won’t be one without the other.
What is customer satisfaction?
ISO 9001 defines customer satisfaction as their view of the extent to which their product and service requirements have been met. This definition stresses that it’s not just the requirements themselves which are important, but also how the customer perceives their fulfilment (we’re not talking about contractual obligations at all, then – editor). In the same way, when we talk about the “degree” of satisfaction, we mean that there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question of customer satisfaction. It makes more sense to talk about the different levels and dimensions of this satisfaction. This, too, should not be neglected. There is another important point to note. If the customer does not complain, he is not necessarily a satisfied customer. And vice versa, a complaining client cannot be called dissatisfied. Very often a dissatisfied consumer prefers not to complain directly to the supplier. He complains to friends, relatives, thus forming a negative image of the supplier, your company. There is a completely different type of customer: they complain even if they are generally satisfied with the services or products. They do so because they believe that they will get an even better product in the future with additional positive features. If you manage information on such complaints properly, not only such customers, but any of the most demanding and difficult customers will form a positive opinion of you. In addition, thanks to such customers you have the opportunity to use complaints as feedback, as information which will help you first of all improve your business (improve operations, help the personnel to do their job better, help the suppliers to improve, – editor). In ISO 9001 certification the following is written on this subject: “the organization must monitor information about customer expectations and needs in terms of whether it has been able to meet them.” Among others, the realization of this requirement of the standard is one of the criteria of the effectiveness of the quality management system.
A systematic mechanism for increasing customer satisfaction
To create an effective organizational mechanism of customer satisfaction management, you need a comprehensive strategic approach. The resulting system must manage a number of aspects into which the problem of a satisfied customer breaks down.
These aspects are:
- Analyzing customer requirements and expectations
- Managing customer expectations
- Monitor and measure customer satisfaction
How you will analyze customer requirements, their needs, varies widely depending on the sector in which you operate, the country, the level of market development, the type of your company (service or manufacturing – ed.), the corporate culture and many other details. The techniques used may include market analysis, trend analysis, CRM information analysis, complaint analysis and so on. It should be noted here that some industries allow you to analyze customer needs and expectations more directly than others: personal meetings with customers; information “from the field,” from sales staff, from “customer assessment” processes (ed.) and from “customization of contracts” processes (ed.). When analyzing customer preferences, it’s important to remember that their real needs often don’t coincide with the requirements they articulate and what they really expect from working with you. Except in QMS, the results of your customer needs analysis can be successfully used in marketing and business intelligence related to new products or services. Focusing your attention on customer expectations can make a significant contribution to building a customer-centric company. Ultimately, a customer-centric company will achieve the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Managing consumer expectations.
In this case, the first level is to meet consumers’ explicit demands and expectations for products or services, but this is only the first step. The second step is to deal with implicit expectations. The world’s best practices prescribe for this purpose to create a document Code of conduct, which takes into account any hidden needs of someone who has turned to you for a service or decided to buy your product. Guided by the Rules, the staff will do no harm, even if not all the wishes of the client are known to them. Also, it is usually advisable in the situation described to develop a complaint management procedure so that it is easy for the customer to give you feedback on the product.
Monitor and measure customer satisfaction.
Naturally, in order to be able to improve your company and increase such an indicator as customer satisfaction – you need to know what the customer thinks about your services/products, whether they are satisfied in general with the experience of contacting you. Achieving this goal will require systematic monitoring and measurement of the level of satisfaction of your customers. Two types of information must be collected: the information which comes directly from the client and the internal information from employees (complaints made by sales, data on customer retention, information on the actions of new customers, etc. – ed.).
Above, remember, we already said: one of the ways to find out directly the opinion of consumers – complaints. But take into account not only the opinion of disappointed customers, find out what the consumers who were indifferent and positive think. You have no other way to do this than to initiate some form of communication with your customers.
Approaches to finding out what consumers think about your product can vary. Sometimes “scorecards” are recommended. They use questionnaires, interview customers, conduct market research in focus groups. Even suggestion boxes will do, if that works. Different channels can be used to gather information: conversations with the sales department, online surveys, phone calls, social media, the website, e-mail newsletters. You also need to take into account the time frame. Write down when and how often you are going to collect information about customer satisfaction. Here, too, everything will depend on the type of company, clientele, methods and channels of communication. The most important thing in all of this is to collect exactly the information that you need in terms of your goals. In “your networks” should get the data which really will help you to improve products and services, positively influence the situation with satisfaction of consumers. The information should be not only relevant, but also easy to analyze, it should clearly show the main trends of the situation development, fix the main indicators, acting on which it will be possible to improve operations, services and products.
Customer satisfaction management is a priority
Managing customer satisfaction is not an easy task. There is no single correct approach. You have to look for the ideal course of action for you by trial and error. In addition, the monitoring process you created once will have to be periodically changed and improved as the circumstances in which you operate change. Being complex and often time-consuming, the process we discussed in this article is an inevitable and essential element, a prerequisite for a successful business. In the end, not just essential, but potentially very profitable for the company. It also helps to increase efficiency.