Let me ask you some questions: Are your customer satisfaction programs making a difference? How do you know? What attributes are you measuring? How are you measuring them?
None of us work in a vacuum. The reason you have satisfaction programs in the first place is to improve your standing in the market. If you don’t already have a main competitor, you will. There will always be someone gunning to attract your customers, to serve them better and keep them as their own. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be better than you. To combat this, you need a competitive satisfaction component of your program to check how you fair against competitors and what you need to do to improve.
There is a Point of Diminishing Return
This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a point where making customer-facing changes, even those identified as key for satisfaction, no longer provide benefits that outweigh the cost. This does not mean that you should not expend resources on important programs to improve satisfaction. You should. We all should. But at what point does making a change no longer make financial sense? One of the most helpful ways to find this point is to understand where you stand against your competitors. You may find that your competitors are focusing on another area that makes them look better and you should adjust your plans to focus on that particular area as well, or that you should stay the course because your current efforts are working to improve your standing.
You Need Proper Context
Making the right changes is key, but you’re only seeing part of the equation if you don’t look outside of your organization. Are your competitors doing something far better than you? Do your customers report being satisfied with your business, but that is not translating to loyalty? Is there something your competitors are doing that you had not thought of? Is it time to reverse course in a key area that will turn the tide in your direction? If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
Competitive Satisfaction Can be Tricky
The way I see it, there are two ways to handle competitive satisfaction:
- Integrate a competitive section into your existing satisfaction study
- Field a blind satisfaction study for the industry that integrates your brand and your competitors
Deciding between the two comes down to the intent of the study:
- If your main goal is to gather specific, detailed feedback concerning your customer-facing process, and the study will be fielded under your brand, an integrated section is probably the best way to go.
- Advantage: Easiest to implement, it only requires an additional section.
- Disadvantage: Your customers may not be as honest as they can be since you are the one asking the questions.
- If your main goal is to understand satisfaction from a broader sense, giving you direction without being too granular, then a blinded industry satisfaction study may be in order.
- Advantage: More likely to gather honest feedback in a competitive context.
- Disadvantage: You can miss important service-level information that might make a difference.
How do you decide? There are several factors, but the kind of business you are in, the amount of research you have conducted, and how transient your customers are come to mind. I would recommend conducting a stand-alone, deep dive study that sets the course for improvement (maybe twice), and then follow up some time later with a more general, industry-wide study. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth thinking through critically.
Rely on the Experts
Actionable Research has been conducting satisfaction research for nearly 20 years. We understand how to pick processes apart, what questions to ask, how to help you prioritize your changes, and how to maximize those changes in a competitive context. Contact us and let us know how we can help.