Customer Satisfaction Research Considerations

Regardless of whether a customer satisfaction research program is to be managed internally or externally, there are many things to consider. One key consideration is the size and scope of the target sample set. For instance, is it feasible and/or economical to survey all of your customers, or does it make more sense to study a subset? Many companies prioritize surveying their largest or most profitable relationships, while others only survey a random sampling of customers to get a broader view of the customer experience their company is providing.

Survey Methods

Another important consideration is the medium by which you will conduct the survey. On-line surveys are inexpensive and increasingly commonplace, yet their expected response rate is lower than other methods. An online customer satisfaction survey employed within a sophisticated business to business market sector typically will generate a response rate of just 20 percent. By comparison, a paper survey can usually produce a rate closer to 30 percent. Anova uses a hybrid approach that includes using paper questionnaires, on-line questionnaires and telephone interviewing. The goal is to allow targeted respondents to participate in whatever fashion is most convenient for them. With this flexible approach, we normally produce a response rate that is greater than 50 percent.

Breadth and Scope

The breadth and scope of your customer satisfaction research survey instrument is another important decision you will have to make. Some companies ask detailed questions on every possible facet of the customer experience, while others prefer to conduct “deep dives” on specific product or service features or focus on overall impressions. While most customers appreciate being asked their opinions, they also have time constraints that must be respected. Consequently, a balance must be struck between respecting the customer’s time and gathering enough actionable data to make improvements in your service. For example, in a current trend, some companies have reduced their customer satisfaction research and analysis to a single question that focuses on whether the customer would recommend the company to others.  However, these same companies often find that they lack sufficient detail on the root causes of customer dissatisfaction to make targeted efforts at improving their baseline results.

Mutual Benefits

Anova Consulting Group also has found that surveyed customers want to know how the information they provide will be used to their benefit. A best practice among firms that conduct customer satisfaction research is to communicate some of the findings to participants; summarizing strengths and areas where improvements are needed. These communications also often share high-level action plans for how the survey results will be used going forward.

Internal or External

The final and perhaps most important consideration for establishing a customer satisfaction research program is determining whether it will be managed with in-house resources or by external professionals. In many organizations, customer satisfaction research and analysis is either conducted by a company’s own marketing or research department or by generalist market research firms. Internally-managed programs can be effective, but most companies lack the specialized expertise that is required to produce optimal results. As a result, more and more companies are reallocating their internal resources and outsourcing their customer satisfaction projects to specialized firms like Anova Consulting Group to leverage their  expertise in business-focused, forensic market research. Dedicated external specialists, like Anova, not only tend to bring a higher level of expertise to the exercise, they also are better positioned to serve as independent and objective intermediaries between customers and product/service providers. The benefits of independence are twofold:

    1. Customers are often more willing to be open and direct with independent researchers, which means that companies that manage their programs externally tend to receive more candid feedback, and in larger quantities, than those that manage their programs in-house.
    2. By removing personal feelings or internal politics from the equation, the quality of the feedback that is transmitted back to the product/service provider is likely to be more actionable. In short, it is easier for an outsider to receive, synthesize, and explain difficult or uncomfortable customer feedback than it is for an internal researcher to do so.

When implemented thoughtfully and purposefully, customer satisfaction analysis is an extremely powerful tool for maintaining and renewing the loyalty of your company’s most important prospects – its current customers.

Survey Methodology: Anova uses a hybrid approach that includes using paper questionnaires, on-line questionnaires and telephone interviewing. With this flexible approach, we normally produce a response rate that is greater than 50 percent.