I was with a client the other day and we were chatting about his business when he received a call from a person who wanted to conduct a customer survey. They said it would only take a few minutes.

I dont know about you, but when I have received calls like this, the few minutes have invariably turned into a lengthy series of questions about my customer experience. It often leaves me a little annoyed and feeling that I have been duped somehow. This got me to thinking about this approach and what impact it has on customer relations, repeat business and overall business growth. Could it be that when firms extensively survey their customers, they potentially drive them away, despite their good intentions?

Thinking about this a little more reminded me of a part of the book

I mentioned earlier: The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld.

Reichheld introduces his Net Promoter Score approach and advocates that all customer surveys be boiled down to one central question: “As one of our customers, how likely is it that you will recommend or refer our company to a family member, friend or colleague?”

That may be an extreme approach but I think there is real value in this idea. Here is the approach I advocate my clients use:

Question: Are you happy with the product/service that you received from our company?

If No, then ask:

So we can learn, could you tell us how we could get better?

If Yes, then ask:

Would you be willing to recommend us to a friend, family member, colleague etc?

This is, essentially, based around a customer insight that says that customers judge your performance based on what they are an expert in. This is not necessarily what you may an expert in.

Let me explain:

Example 1: If you are a restaurateur, the restaurant experience could be great but if the toilets were a mess and unhygienic, what impact would that have on the overall customer experience? What would they think of you as a restaurateur?

Example 2: If you are an accountant, say, the main factor that the client will measure you on is likely to be how quickly you return their calls, how helpful you are, how you demystify tax and accounts and how much money you save on their tax bill. Or maybe, contacts you introduce them to who ultimately help them to grow their business.

This approach is based around the idea that there is such a thing as good and bad profits, where good profits are those that come from customers that are happy and refer you on to other customers and that bad profits are associated with disgruntled one-time customers. Understanding this balance is therefore the gold mine to understanding the growth potential in your business. He goes on to say that understanding this balance is the only thing that businesses should be focused on with regards to their customers.

Here are a couple of questions that that could help you apply this to your business:

1. Are you surveying your customers? If not, then why not start – just keep it simple.

2. If you are surveying your customers, are your surveys too complicated and are they turning people off thereby

limiting your potential for repeat business and referrals?

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