Bill Gates has said that “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” This is important advice to remember, especially when things are NOT going well. It’s easy to brush off complaints as the fault of a grumpy client, or one bad day for the staff, or an isolated incident with special circumstances. Perhaps that is true – perhaps you’ve got a handle on excellent client relations. After all, 81% of U.S. business leaders are sure their company delivers superior customer service. Unhappily, only 8% of their clients agree.
Make no mistake about it: Your unhappy customers are a problem, even if they are continuing to do business with you. Of course, the first problem is that you want happy customers. Their well-being and satisfaction is what you’re all about. But the other danger is that 51% of customers on the receiving end of what they consider poor service complain about it to their friends, neighbors, co-workers and other businesses. Think about it. One unsatisfied client can potentially bad-mouth your company to scores of current or potential customers.
This is why it’s so important to run periodic customer satisfaction surveys, for both new and long-standing clients, to check in and see how your business is doing from their perspective. We recently did just that and discovered some general results of a customer satisfaction survey to hold true in our experience:
- An email survey results in more responses than phone or mail.
- Even with an email survey, expect only about a 10% return rate.
- Your results will most likely not be “average.” You’ll find that the clients who return your survey are either extremely pleased or extremely dissatisfied with your service.
- Occasionally, you will find a client who will never be happy.
We also learned a great deal from our recent survey. For the most part, our clients are very pleased with us. But when we asked them to tell us, on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely they would be to refer us to a friend or colleague, one long-standing customer surprised us by gifting us a 1. Rather than write that client off as unreasonable or a fluke, we immediately set out to follow Bill Gates’ advice. We attempted several times to meet with the client, and finally got to speak with him. He gave us a new perspective – the customer’s perspective – on an issue we were not even aware of. The honest discussion that followed caused us to implement several changes to our processes to eliminate that issue from happening in the future. That client feels validated and more confident in our services and we turned up our level of competence for all of our customers a notch!
Can your business take a lesson from our recent survey experience by implementing a survey of your own, and learn ways to make your business better? Let us know in the comments.