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Do You Have Great Customer Satisfaction Systems? by Kevin McManus

Too many organizations take customer satisfaction for granted. They will tell you that customer satisfaction is important, but when you look at how customer satisfaction is measured (or not measured), customer requirements are determined, and customers are involved in helping the organization improve its processes, you will realize that the customer satisfaction message is much more 'talk' than 'walk.' Additionally, we tend to essentially ignore our internal customers - our employees - to the point where one could consider them to be 'forgotten customers.'

Do you have great customer satisfaction systems, or do you assume that you know what your customers want and rely on sales figures to let you know when they are happy or not? Do you believe that internal customer satisfaction is the true driver of external customer delight, or do you mistakenly believe that external customer satisfaction is possible even when your employees are dissatisfied? Organizations who are serious about pursuing process excellence don't take internal or external customer satisfaction for granted. They use multiple approaches to measure both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and they design their processes to include their internal and external customers on a regular basis. Additionally, they make efforts at least annually to improve these approaches.

How to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction System

Who are your key customers?
How connected are you to your customers?
What do your customers really want?
Do you treat your internal and external customers differently?
How do you measure customer satisfaction?
What steps can I take to improve my customer satisfaction system?
How can Great Systems help you improve your customer satisfaction system?
Would you like to learn more about operational and process excellence tools and concepts?









Who are your key customers? Back to Top

Who are your key customers? It sounds like an easy question doesn’t it. In fact, the answer seems obvious - it’s the people who spend money for our goods or services. While that answer may be right, in this case, a simple answer is not the best one. Any given organization has several types of customers, whether they recognize that fact or not.

Great organizations segment their customers in order to gain a better definition of who their customers are. Some go even further by defining their stakeholders, or in other words, all groups that hold a stake in the success or failure of the enterprise. In order to grow an organization over time or to raise your levels of customer delight to higher and higher levels, you need to know who your customer segments and stakeholders are.

Also, if you really want to get sustained, great results over time, it is important that everyone in your organization knows who the key customer groups are and what needs each of those groups has. Do you know what your key customer segments are? Do you know how customer needs differ in importance between segments? What percentage of your workforce gets to spend time with their customers? Who are your key customers, and how do you determine if you are giving them what they really want?

Customer Satisfaction System Weaknesses

How connected to your customers are you? Back to Top

I have worked in companies where I did not even know who the customers of the products we made were, other than to know that they were the people that bought our products. As my career progressed however and I had the chance to work in organizations where all employees got to interact with the external customers to some degree, I began to realize the power that comes from having a stronger customer connection.

I also learned that as the amount of contact increases between each employee and each customer group, the level of customer service increases. I saw a direct correlation between the percent of time employees spent with customers and the level of customer service. More time equaled higher service because we could (1) attach a name and face to the customer label and (2) by their reactions we could gain a greater understanding of what their likes and dislikes were.

High performance organizations spend lots of time with their customers. They also install listening posts which increase the percent of time that EACH EMPLOYEE spends with different customer groups. For example, key face-to-face listening posts that are used by most high performing companies include focus groups, planning involvement, product and service development sessions, regular visits to both the customer's location and in-house, and point of purchase relationship building.

What do your customers really want? Back to Top

How does your company decide what products and services its customers really want? Do you use focus groups and surveys? Do you spend time in the field watching customers either buying your product or making purchase decisions that involve it? There are a variety of ways to determine customer requirements, but all too few companies use more than simply their own opinions.

That’s right - many decisions about what the customer wants are made in meeting rooms, simply by reviewing written summaries of customer meetings or discussing what we think the customer wants.

Customer Touches

Great companies however use a host of fact-based approaches to create a list of possible customer wants and to prioritize those wants before converting them into product and service features. They recognize that different customer segments expect different things from the products and services they purchase, and they place a high degree of value on using fact-based approaches to determine how these requirements differ.

The example tables and lists provided on this web page are intended to give you several examples of how you might want to enhance your current approaches for defining customer requirements. One key improvement you can make is to simply increase the number of times you touch your customers and allow them to touch you back over a given period of time. By increasing the number of customer touches, you are provided with more opportunities to observe them, listen to them, and measure their levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

You can also employ the use of several mechanisms for staying in touch with the customer. In doing, you can obtain data from a variety of sources, compare the results of such research, and look for commonalities across different data collection mediums. The patterns that appear most often reflect the requirements that your customers consider to be the most important. If you do choose to use a variety of approaches, make sure that you pull them all together into a listening post summary table. This practice will help you make sure that you are investing your customer research time and money in the right places.

Do you treat your internal and external customers differently? Back to Top

One of the workshops that I enjoy facilitating has to do with your forgotten customers - in other words, your internal customers. When you look at the ten power systems in total, you might notice that I do not distinguish between internal and external customers when it comes to defining customer requirements and measuring to gauge levels of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. I do this on purpose because I consider both groups to be equally important and essentially the same.

It is true that their needs are different, but that does not mean that you should spend more effort, or use better approaches, with one group as opposed to the other. You need to meet and exceed the key needs of both customer types in order to have sustained organizational success over time. Neglect one group, and your performance will eventually falter.

If you judge customer importance in terms of the time and money that is focused on one group versus the other, I think you will find that in most cases the level of investment is greater for the external customer group. This may seem logical, since this is the group that gives your organization money in one form or another. The internal customer group either makes money or loses money for you however, so we might really want to question this investment difference if we are trying to take our organizations to a higher level of performance. I have found that high levels of external customer satisfaction cannot be realized and sustained unless high levels of internal customer satisfaction are realized and sustained first. Do you share this belief?

How do you measure customer satisfaction? Back to Top

Most organizations use surveys to measure customer satisfaction, if they measure customer satisfaction at all. When surveys are used to measure customer satisfaction, it is much more typical to only measure external customer satisfaction - internal customer satisfaction is often taken for granted.

Customer dissatisfaction is typically measured by tracking customer complaints. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied with a product or service actually make the effort to tell the organization about it. Many estimate this percentage to be as low as 10%.

High performance organizations use a balanced scorecard approach to measure internal and external customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. An example scorecard is shown on the right. Note that satisfaction is measured in four dimensions, and that a four part survey-based index is used to actually assess satisfaction for both customer groups (survey results from four different questions are averaged).

Satisfaction Scorecard

What steps can I take to improve my customer satisfaction system? Back to Top

Customer Service System Improvements

How can Great Systems help you improve your customer satisfaction system? Back to Top

Over the past 30 plus years, I have been involved with designing internal and external customer satisfaction systems in a variety of different companies - both small and large - in the manufacturing and service arenas. This experience has helped me discover value added, simple ways to set up manual and digital systems for measuring customer satisfaction, creating internal employee surveys that are linked to the annual planning process, reducing customer complaints, and helping an organization better define and exceed the key requirements of their customers. Failing to hear from your customers as often as you should is the primary power restrictor for this power system - finding effective ways to manage and improve the various listening posts that are used is the way to find higher levels of performance.

If you are interested in the customer satisfaction systems and tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at Better yet, give some thought to working further with me to help you improve your customer satisfaction system via these avenues:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out workshop - If you really want to accelerate your organization's pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. This one day workshop is designed to help each participant (all leaders) define the key processes they personally own, the waste streams that these processes contain, and the measures and actions that are needed to reduce process waste and increase customer value.

How to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction System workshop - This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals - define your key customer segments and the requirements of those segments, learn about best practice approaches to measuring and improving customer satisfaction, and make key choices regarding how your leadership team wants to improve your existing customer satisfaction system for better results. Please note that this workshop focuses on both internal and external customer groups, as I operate from the perspective that internal customer satisfaction must be improved in order to increase external customer satisfaction levels.

Would you like to learn more about process excellence tools and concepts? Back to Top

Click on one of the following links to explore other ways you can accelerate the pursuit of process excellence in your organization:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out Workshop
Operational and Process Excellence FAQs
Performance Improvement Articles
Process Excellence Certificate Process
Other Great Systems workshops
Other Great Systems workbooks
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Last Revised - February 25, 2015
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