This Article is Part 1 of a series of articles on the subject of customer and client satisfaction surveys. Part 1 covers the early planning stages for customer satisfaction surveys.
The starting point for effective customer satisfaction surveys is gaining a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the study. Typically, the process begins with a conference call between the client and the survey company to discuss the products/services provided by the client, type of users (B2B or B2C), demographics of the client's customers, markets served (local, regional, national, or global), and nature of the sales process. Essentially, the vendor asks the client to describe the organization's business model.
Another early discussion topic is clarification of the overall goals of the client satisfaction survey. For example, is it measurement of overall satisfaction, measurement of key aspects of customer relationship interactions, or is it a more narrow goal - - such as measurement of satisfaction with the purchasing process, product quality, or after-sale service? Also, will it be an ongoing survey distributed over an extended time period (for example, after each transaction) or will it be monthly, semi-annual or annual measurement? This information will help the survey company identify survey length, survey topics, and preliminary survey questions for the first draft of the survey instrument. If the client has developed questions on its own, these can be forwarded to the vendor for review if the client is willing to do this in advance of a formal contract.
Another important consideration is identifying the most effective survey methodology based on the client's customer demographics and project goals. A final decision does not need to be made at this point in the process; however, viable options will need to be identified for cost purposes. It is sometimes appropriate for a vendor to ask the client about project budget as this can impact the scope of the project. Different methodologies - phone interviewing, mail surveys, and Internet survey research - each have their own nuances which can work better or worse (from cost, efficiency, and response rate perspectives) in different situations.
Asking the client about the quality and availability of its customer records is critical. If good quality records do not exist for the TARGETED survey respondents or are available in one medium only, this can severely impact the viability or cost of the project. The viability of Internet survey research can be determined by asking the client to confirm the quantity of customer email addresses and how often those records are updated. If the response is positive, many clients will favor using Internet survey research because of its cost savings and efficiency.
The final piece of the puzzle even in the early stages of the survey process is to try to pin down desired data analysis and reporting deliverables. The form of deliverable can impact the cost of the project and also define sample size requirements. For example, where the client desires analyses among multiple segments of customers and/or customer interactions, the study may require additional responses to achieve valid response data within each segment.
Another reporting consideration is whether the client has conducted similar surveys in the past and wants to use this information for internal benchmarking of results. If so, the reporting process will often be more expensive to include relevant statistical comparisons between the different waves.
In summary, the early stages of customer satisfaction surveys is an information gathering process where the survey company needs to understand the business model of the client, its customer demographics, nature of the sales process, goals of the customer satisfaction survey, availability of customer records (including email addresses), and reporting requirements. A skilled research supplier will know which questions to ask and then be able to process this information and provide a quote targeted to the needs of the client in terms of its budget and survey objectives.