Measuring customer satisfaction is vital for understanding the perception of services and the value it brings the business. Wes Heemskerk of TOPdesk shares two ways of approaching and measuring satisfaction.
More and more organisations are becoming aware of the necessity of internal customer satisfaction surveys for improving services. Some organisations gauge this every year, others continuously. Which measurement approach is right for your situation?
Depending on the requirements and capabilities of your organisation, there are two different approaches: periodic measurements and continuous measurements. Both bring their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you want to use them for. So here’s a look at when to use which, and some best practices for both.
A periodic measurement means that a survey is sent to the entire customer base, usually on an annual basis. Such measurements are ideal for gauging the services in broad terms. All main aspects are included in the questionnaire.
SERVQUAL is a commonly used research model to cover all these aspects. SERVQUAL divides the services into ﬁve dimensions (Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy and Responsiveness). Your customer receives a number of propositions for each dimension, asking about their experience. Moreover, your customer is asked to outline the dimensions that matter most to them. This lets your department get to work improving the dimensions that are of the biggest beneﬁt to the customer.
Propositions are not enough in a periodic measurement, however: open questions are also a must. Answers to questions such as ‘What can the department do to be of better service?’ support the scores for the SERVQUAL dimensions. What’s more, the answers not only provide input on your current services but also suggestions on what the department’s service provision is missing. This measurement grants insight into the customer satisfaction in broad terms, as some improvements will not be achieved in a matter of days. You can then measure the results of your eﬀorts in the following year’s survey.
In addition to long-term improvements, periodic measurements can also provide quick wins that are easy to implement. For instance, if you discover that your customers don’t know who to contact within your department, you can specify in your organisation’s chat program who’s on ﬁrst line duty and therefore ready for any questions colleagues may have.
Continuously measuring services entails measuring how a service is experienced throughout the year. A customer is asked for feedback immediately after receiving a service from your department – when a call is resolved, for instance. This is often done in an email automatically sent from your service management solution, such as the closure email. The message then includes a link to a brief survey where the customer can assess the service. The customer has just experienced the service, so they can clearly remember how this went and can therefore provide concrete feedback.
This measurement method is excellent for determining the Customer Eﬀort Score. This measures the eﬀort a customer felt had to be put in to get their call or request completed. Measuring this perceived eﬀort dovetails with the goal of taking the most customer-oriented approach possible. After all, you are not working to wow the customer. Instead, you want to make things as easy as you can for colleagues to use, so they can focus on their primary tasks.
A high Customer Eﬀort Score (i.e. in the customer’s experience they have to put in a lot of eﬀort to get a solution) should be followed up immediately. If customers can also provide additional information about their score in the survey, it soon becomes clear why the score is high and how to follow it up. Think for instance of comments like ‘I had to explain my problem three times to three diﬀerent service desk employees.’ The operators in question can be alerted to the importance of a clear problem description.
Continuous measurement becomes truly eﬀective when the results can be traced back to speciﬁc services. This also requires a clear service catalogue.
When to use which measurement method?
Periodic and continuous measurements are suitable for diﬀerent topics and lead to diﬀerent insights. To select a measurement method, it’s important to check which situation applies to your department: quick polish or complete overhaul?
If you’re about to completely overhaul your services, periodic measurement is recommended. It can then serve as a benchmark, so results can help shape the choices made during the change process. A benchmark also ensures that the results of your eﬀorts are visible in a follow-up measurement. The eﬀort is rewarded with improved scores. The results are also an important motivation for service desk employees to keep up a customer-oriented approach. Are your services in order, or have you just completed a change process? A continuous measurement can help you gradually polish your service provision. Constantly receiving feedback from customers can help you quickly implement improvements.
Is the customer always right?
The extent to which you’re focused on customer satisfaction also plays a role in selecting the measurement method. Continuously measuring requires discipline from the department: they have to put the results to use throughout the entire year. If customer satisfaction is your most important goal, continuous measurement is a logical choice. Conversely, if you still experience customers as ‘diﬃcult’, a periodic measurement might work better. A complete picture of the service provision from the customer’s perspective can help the department realize the customer should come ﬁrst.
Wes Heemskerk is service management consultant at TOPdesk.