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Predicting Vendor Relationships By Measuring Vendor Attention to Customer Service

When | How often does a vendor measure customer satisfaction?

To be successful, a customer satisfaction measurement program needs to be perpetual, a best practice that is often misperceived. Requesting feedback from customers once a year is not enough to improve customer facing business processes.

Given the critical nature of technology, software and systems need to demonstrate success in the eyes of a customer every day. Business needs and market conditions often change quickly, which is why many software technology vendors conduct satisfaction surveys on a monthly basis. Even better, vendors should conduct transactional satisfaction surveys immediately after an event (e.g. the sale, the implementation, a service call, a call center case, a help desk incident) and then a follow-on relationship survey can be done less frequently, often quarterly or bi-annually.

How | How exactly do you measure and manage customer satisfaction?

When a technology supplier claims that their customers are highly satisfied, it makes sense to question how they have come to that conclusion. There are several valid approaches to surveying customers, so buyers will have to use judgment to assess whether the survey mechanisms make sense given the proposed technology.

For mass-marketed business technologies that are sold online or under short sales cycles, it is likely that customers do not have a specific sales or account executive. Organizations may interact with the vendor remotely, via call centers or though online channels such as the Web. In such cases, Web and email surveys can be effective. Questions should measure satisfaction across different touch points and should always include a section to capture free form responses.

When it comes to specialized, high-tech, big-ticket systems, however, it makes sense to go deeper than a simple check-box survey. Here, technology vendors are more likely to employ methods that provide opportunities for in-depth dialogue, such as telephone or face-to-face surveys.

Some people question whether satisfaction surveys should be conducted in-house or outsourced to a third-party. In general, outsourcing does not indicate a lack of commitment. Third-party survey specialists often employ best-in-class technologies and customers may also feel more comfortable providing honest feedback to a third-party. In-house programs can also be effective at measuring satisfaction levels as long as the department conducting the surveys is not the same team responsible for delivering the service.

Whether surveys are conducted in-house or outsourced, your proposed technology vendor should have a person or team in place to manage satisfaction measurement and feedback. With centrally managed programs, vendors can look at satisfaction from beginning to end. They can also coordinate when and how surveys are fielded to ensure that each customer is never over-surveyed.

While each client must be measured according to a custom built program, specifically designed to their needs, some core rules and measures across companies can be identified. Some example measures that have been tried and tested by Pitney Bowes include the following:

  • Monthly e-mail surveys focusing on critical customer-facing processes.
  • If a customer reports that they are dissatisfied, the survey results are immediately escalated and appropriate business units are alerted and required to report results.
  • As part of the survey process, customers are asked to contribute ideas and suggestions. To date, for Pitney Bowes, this has led to 44,000 new ideas.

Measures for enterprise customers:

  • In-depth telephone surveys with multiple contacts at each customer company to explore sales support, performance, response time, satisfaction with service reps, ease of doing business and overall satisfaction.
  • If customers report that they are merely “satisfied,” service managers are set a maximum number of days within which to resolve problems and develop an action plan to boost satisfaction.
  • Managers review satisfaction results each week, and analytic teams look for trends by region, sales rep, product, etc. to drive strategies and new programs.

Why | Why exactly do you measure customer satisfaction?

There is one main reason vendors should measure customer satisfaction – to identify gaps and continuously improve overall service delivery which then improves customer satisfaction.

Be cautious of any technology vendor who surveys customers solely for the sake of publishing a number or issuing a report. Companies that excel in customer satisfaction look to improve future performance and not just record past results.

Technology companies that are serious about customer satisfaction don’t bother asking questions unless they have infrastructure in place to use the data and take action. Surveys and systems are designed so that the information gathered is actionable; and senior management will be involved in review and planning sessions.

When companies purchase new technology, they also enter into a relationship with a technology partner. Often, the success of that relationship will go a long way in determining whether the actual software or systems deliver as promised.

Satisfaction with technology goes far beyond system capabilities. Do sales representatives listen, care and understand? How does the company handle upgrades? Can the customer reach the right person if there is a problem? Are billing statements clear and accurate?

Understanding how a technology supplier measures and manages customer satisfaction can provide insight into how they deliver service on a daily basis. Best-in-class technology vendors solicit feedback from customers on a regular basis and act upon the information they receive to rapidly resolve customer issues. Taking the time to learn more about the who, what, when, how and why of a prospective vendor’s approach to customer satisfaction helps buyers make smarter, more informed decisions. End

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Technology companies that are serious about customer satisfaction don’t bother asking questions unless they have the infrastructure in place to use the data and take action. Surveys and systems are designed so that the information gathered is actionable, and senior management will be involved in review and planning sessions.



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