Report: Companies Need Coherent Customer Survey Strategies

Even though a growing number of companies are taking healthy advantage of low-cost, high-volume customer survey mechanisms to acquire consumer insight, there are still gaps in the readiness and ability to understand and act on the data. Inspired by ongoing work with British Telecom to understand customer loyalty and satisfaction, Quadstone, in conjunction with Collaborative Insight, surveyed 10 companies in the United States and the United Kingdom, divided equally between telecommunications providers and financial services firms. "Traditionally--and still for many firms--they're doing a survey on just a few hundred or a thousand customers," says Mark Smith, president of Quadstone. "But we know there are companies doing tens of thousands of these surveys every month, which is a whole different world from traditional customer satisfaction." Most of the companies polled indicated that they conducted regular surveys on specific customers, not merely grabs for anonymous input, but few were willing to ask hard questions of their customers about loyalty and advocacy, or collaborate in industry benchmarks. After observing how industry leaders handle customer surveys, Quadstone defined a five-step model for proper follow-through on customer service inquiries, beginning with the clear definition of questions, goals, and metrics, to measuring the impact of change through further survey and strategy adjustment. Each step requires a smooth handoff between the technical side of the equation--IT and data analysts--to the organization's customer face, and back again. That in itself helps explain why some companies have difficulty closing the loop on their growing volumes of customer feedback. According to Quadstone, a characteristic of customer service leaders is the ability to focus on the later, execution stages of the customer survey process by implementing and measuring change, rather than being stuck devoting most survey resources into defining survey scope and securing management buy-in for customer-driven change. "They can't solve all their [customer satisfaction] problems in one go," Smith says. But understanding the true components of loyalty is crucial when widespread access to information substantially reduces switching costs. Smith says that one surprising result of the survey was the fact that telecom firms have a better grasp on a meaningful customer survey process than their peers in finance, and as a result, are able to focus more on the meaning and impact, rather than the format of their customer survey results. "Financial services has tended to be ahead of telecom [in customer service], because they have kept data for a longer period and have teams of analysts who do sophisticated analysis in areas, [such as] attrition and risk," he says. "But they seem to have missed the connection between themselves and the customer survey, and the telcos have leapfrogged them in this particular area." Related articles: A Real-Time Timeout? 7 Strategies for Profiting From Customer Data
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