March 6, 2006

News & Opinion: Measuring Customer Satisfaction

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 5:27 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Out of curiousity, how many companies would you recommend to someone else? Have you ever had an outstanding, memorable customer service experience? I'd love to know what you define as an excellent customer service experience.
Every Tuesday we have a 8cr-wide meeting. It's not your regular corporate meeting; rather its a bring your pillow, share your opinions and write them on huge post-it notes. During these meetings, anything can be discussed (within reason). Last week Todd asked us a version of the above questions. In turn, we each answered.
Being the lucky person sitting next to Todd, I answered first. It's sad to say that I can't easily think of a really, really good customer service experience. There's nothing that pops to the top of my head leading me to be -- as Ben and Jackie would say -- a customer evangelist.
I do think that whether you would recommend a company does play into loyalty. Customer recommendations are the base for Fred Reichheld's new book The Ultimate Question. It's an interesting new way to get a measurement for just how satisfied your customers are. Of course, there will always be the pessimists and optimists but Fred provides a strategy for understanding what your customers are thinking.
The Washington Post had a review yesterday morning on his book (registration required). It's brief but it hits the main points of Fred's book:
In The Ultimate Question (HBS), Reichheld draws the distinction between unsustainable bad profits, which are generally the result of taking advantage of customers in some way, and self-reinforcing good profits, which come about because delighted and satisfied customers keep coming back, bringing their friends with them. He uses a few case studies and a succinct set of recommendations to show how any company, of any size, can build a successful business around asking the "ultimate" question and responding to the answers. Among management books, this one's a keeper.

While Fred's measurement may not be for every company, we've found it to be a useful insight. It's something we can do every week and keep benchmarking our results. We've been doing it since December and it's one of the things we talk about regularly at our "Tuesday meetings".