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We all know customer satisfaction is essential to the survival of our businesses. How do we find out whether our customers are satisfied? The best way to find out whether your customers are satisfied is to ask them.

When you conduct a customer satisfaction survey, what you ask the customers is important. How, when, and how often you ask these questions are also important. However, the most important thing about conducting a customer satisfaction survey is what you do with their answers.

How You Ask Whether Customers Are Satisfied

There are many ways to ask your customers whether or not they are satisfied with your company, your products, and the service they received.

You can ask them:

  • Face-to-face

       As they are about to walk out of your store or office, ask them.

  • Call them on the phone

       If you have their phone number, and their permission, you can call them after their visit and ask how satisfied they are.

  • Mail them a questionnaire

       This technique has been used for a long time. The results are predictable.

  • Email them a customer satisfaction survey

       Be careful to not violate Spam laws

  • Send them an SMS

  • Email them an invitation to take a customer satisfaction survey

  • Invite to them call a toll free number and answer a few questions


When To Conduct A Customer Satisfaction Survey

The best time to conduct a customer satisfaction survey is when the experience is fresh in their minds. If you wait to conduct a survey, the customer's response may be less accurate. He may have forgotten some of the details. She may answer about a later event. Her may color his answers because of confusion with other visits. She may confuse you with some other company.

What To Ask In A Customer Satisfaction Survey

There is a school of thought that you only need to ask a single question in a customer satisfaction survey. That question is, "will you buy from me again?" While it is tempting to reduce your customer satisfaction survey to this supposed "essence", you miss a lot of valuable information and you can be easily misled.

It is too easy for a customer to answer yes to the "will you buy from me again?", whether they mean it or not. You want to ask other questions in a customer satisfaction survey to get closer to the expected behaviour and to collect information about what to change and what to keep doing.


By all means ask the basic customer satisfaction questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the purchase you made (of a product or service)

  • How satisfied are you with the service you received?

  • How satisfied are you with our company overall?

And ask the customer "loyalty questions"

  • How likely are you to buy from us again?

  • How likely are you to recommend our product/service to others

  • How likely are you to recommend our company to others.


Also ask what the customer liked and didn't like about the product, your service, and your company.

How Often Should You Conduct A Customer Satisfaction Survey

The best answer is "often enough to get the most information, but not so often as to upset the customer". In real terms, the frequency with which you conduct a customer satisfaction survey depends on the frequency with which you interact with your customers. Malaysia renews drivers licenses for five-year periods. It would be silly for them to ask me each year what I thought of my last renewal experience. Conversely, if I survey the commuters on my rapid transit system once a year, I will miss important changes in their attitudes that may be driven by seasonal events.

What To Do With Answers From A Customer Satisfaction Survey

Regardless of how I ask my customers for their feedback, what I ask them in the customer satisfaction survey, and when I survey them, the most important part of the customer satisfaction survey is what I do with their answers.

Yes, I need to compile the answers from different customers. I need to look for trends. I should look for differences by region and/or product. However, I most need to act on the information I get from my customers though the survey. I need to fix the things the customers have complained about. I need to investigate their suggestions. I need to improve my company and product in those areas the mean the most to the most of my customers. I need to not change those things that they like. Most importantly I need to give them feedback that their answers were appreciated and are being acted upon. That feedback can be individual responses to the customers if appropriate, or it can simply be fixing the things that they tell you need to be fixed.

What's Next in Customer Satisfaction Surveys?

So how do you know what's important? How do you know what really matters to them? More importantly, how do you know which things to focus your limited resources on first in order to have the biggest impact on improving customer satisfaction?

There are many things you would like to improve about your organization aren't there? The problem is that you don't have the resources to tackle all of them right now, right? Since it is unlikely that you are going to suddenly get more resources, the challenge to you as a manager is to use your limited resources where they will do the most good. So how do you know where they will do the most good? Where can you "get the most bang for your buck?" One way to figure it out is a key driver analysis.

A key driver analysis, sometimes known as an importance - performance analysis, is a study of the relationships among many factors to identify the most important ones. A key driver analysis can be used in many applications. One of the most common, and a good example for us to use, is in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Finding Key Drivers of Customer Satisfaction

Acme Rocket Company (ARC) operates 12 call centres and upper management has to set benchmarks for each center for number of calls per agent per hour and number of cases resolved on the first call. You know that those are conflicting goals. The harder you push your agents to increase their calls per hour, the fewer calls they will resolve on the first attempt. How do you show your boss that these aren't the right goals? Better yet, how do you learn what the best metrics really are? You do a key driver analysis. You prepare the key driver chart and show that to your boss to prove to him that agent product knowledge is more important, for example, than how many times the phone rings before an agent answers it.

Agent Performance

There are many metrics you can measure about agent performance in a call centre that may have some bearing on customer satisfaction. Some of these include 

  • Agent technical knowledge 

  • Agent courtesy and friendliness

  • Speed with which the call was answered

  • Number of calls required to get a problem solved

  • Agent's language skill

  • Agent's patience and etc


You can conduct a customer satisfaction survey and ask your customers how they felt about each of these qualities of the agent with whom they dealt. At the same time, you ask them how satisfied they were with the experience.

Importance Performance Maps

The beauty of a key driver analysis is that it can help you understand what your customers feel is important to them having a good experience with your call center. By doing an analysis of their answers and correlating their satisfaction level answer to their rating of each agent performance metric you can derive which factors have the greatest impact on the customer's perceived level of satisfaction. You can then plot this data in a scatter diagram called a key driver chart or an importance performance map.

Key Driver Chart

A key driver chart plots the results of a key driver analysis in a graphical format that can be quickly read and easily understood. Each agent metric from above is plotted on the graph by its importance to the customers' satisfaction (on the x-axis) and your performance in that area on the y-axis.

This generates four quadrants. The most important is the lower right quadrant. The items plotted here have high importance to your customers, but your performance in those areas is low. These are the areas where your action will have the biggest impact and generate the greatest improvement in customer satisfaction for the effort expended.

Action Planning from Key Drivers Analysis

The lower right quadrant is the most important area of the key driver chart. It identifies the key drivers of customer satisfaction. The key driver chart helps you plan the action you need to take to improve, but it also tells you what to not change. The factors that plot in the upper right quadrant are those that are important to your customers' satisfaction and are areas in which you are currently performing well. Any changes you make to fix problems in the lower right quadrant must not disturb the factors in the upper right quadrant.

For example, if agent product knowledge is a factor in the lower right quadrant that you need to improve, you could send your agents to class for one hour per day to learn more about the product. However, if speed with which the calls are answered is in the upper right quadrant, you don't want the extra agent training time to reduce the speed with which calls are answered, so it may be necessary to work overtime for awhile or bring in some temporary additional staff.

The factors in the upper and lower left quadrants are of lower importance to your clients. How well you perform in these areas will have less impact on your customers' satisfaction. Don't waste your resources on them.

Manage This Issue

Ask your customer how satisfied they are with the factors involved with their experience and with the experience overall. Do the key driver analysis. Plot the results in a key driver chart and get to work fixing the items in the lower right quadrant. That will focus your limited resources on the really important things.

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