Customer Feedback as a Benchmark
One question I like to ask business leaders is this: “how do you gather, analyze and apply feedback from key stakeholder groups, specifically customers?” The most prominent answer: “we do that ... well, sort of”.
While there is value in getting ad hoc, informal and even unsolicited feedback from clients, a structured, measurable approach, the results of which may be indexed and used as an internal benchmark, is well worth the investment of time and attention.
Instant feedback tools and referral ratings have their place. But when it comes to developing and strengthening strategic, long-term relationships with key accounts, a reliable, repeatable feedback system can be a game changer.
One such approach was pioneered by eKG Research, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. A 22 item, one-page survey was developed with 16 “common questions” (these appear on every survey and provide a comprehensive, industry-wide database for comparison) and six custom questions the client may use to ask questions particular to their interests and needs. The 16 standard questions were carefully developed following extensive research with print customers about the things that matter most to them (some of these may surprise you).
Satisfaction surveys are popular and commonly used. But they are limited. Here’s why. While it’s nice to have satisfied customers, satisfaction alone is not a predictor of loyalty. According to the classic Harvard Business Review article “Why Satisfied Customers Defect” (Thomas O. Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr.) clients can be completely satisfied until they find a better option. This new option creates a gap between what you provide (and how) and the newly identified, preferred offering. So, notwithstanding their satisfaction with you, customers “defect.”
The eKG Research instrument takes a three-dimensional approach to each question: How would your rate us, how would you rate your best alternative to us and how important is this item to you. By adding these two additional dimensions (best alternative and importance), greater meaning and context is provided.
A key strategy for most any business is to provide unique value for their key clients. Unique value may be defined as the distance between you and your competitors as measured by your customers and in the in the things that matter most to them. This three-dimensional approach aggregates these data into a numerical index against which businesses can benchmark their standing and chart a course for meaningful, customer-focused improvement.
For more information on ways to gather meaningful feedback from stakeholders (including customers), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.