By John Aderibigbe Managing Consultant DU&T Consulting
Customer centrism is the global direction of every would-be-business leader of the 21st century. However, most organisations find it difficult to come to term with this reality. They claim on their fliers to be very efficient, effective of both in customer satisfaction. Little did they know that customers’ reality is the benefits- real or perceived- derived from the products or services. Another great reality is that customer is one of the two external resources with impact on internal productivity (revenue and profits) but on which the organization has little or no control on. Customers cannot be controlled but can only be influenced. They want what they want, when they want it, where they want, in the quantity they and at the price they want. In response, organization act believing they understand want customer wants- they advertise with contents they believe will suit customer interest; they change products looks, feel or content and services levels on the premise that that is what customer want.
Customers definition of quality varies from customer to customer. Some customers interpret quality to mean perception, feel, touch, price, courtesy, durability, affordability, accessibility, comfortability, convenience, tidiness, ostentatiousness, appearance among other. They questions remains that with numerous interpretation of quality by different customers, how do you identify what customers want. To illustrate challenges faced by organisations, I will like to share some practical experiences:
• A bread manufacturer facing downward sales decided to add milk to the bread to add additional value- bread and milk means tea and bread. This as good as a value added idea may increase cost significantly with insignificant rise in revenue if this does not represent customers want. In fact as one of the customers, my view is that bread shelf life if lower than other competitions. So added milk will not make me buy the bread after 2 days on the shelf.
• A bank faced with withdrawal exceeding deposit concluded that it was due to economic challenges or lack of customer services from his staff. They decided to provide customer service training their staff. But the consultant engaged detected that the customer actually withdrew their funds because of the physical appearance of the bank building and the inability of the banks executives to track changes in customers’ expectations, changes in those expectations and continuously satisfy them. In fact the customer returned to the bank when all these were met. Things are not always what they seem.
• Customer survey conducted by a medical devices organization revealed that they usually failed to satisfy their customers by stopping after sales services after a year. This was due to communication gap / misunderstanding by both the organization and the customer. While the organisations term of sales is that warranty was available for 1 year and so free maintenance was only accessible within the year. At end of the year the warranty ends and the customer expects the company to continue to render these services while the company expects the customer to ask for a new maintenance contract. While waiting, the customer interpreted that as bad customer service. But for the survey, that is enough reasons for customers to look elsewhere.
How many times have you seen product transformation that looks wonderful but less appealing to your needs and you ask yourself if only they had sought my opinion I would have advised them not to change it at all. That means the popular golden rule is applicable to customer service: treat others (customers), the way you want to be treated. Ask and involve them in issues that would affect them. Test marketing is the name when it is a new product but customer survey it is for existing products.
Common mistakes here
• Confusing customer satisfaction with customer complaint: while customer complaints is one of the tools for customer satisfaction but reality proved that less than 20% of customers actually complain.
• Confusing customer satisfaction with what they say before executives and cameras: in real world, customer can tell you that he is satisfied when he is actually on his way to patronize your competitor.
• Confusing customer satisfaction with excellence award from even the most renowned consultants: the fact is that while the selection methods may be the best and purest, but it is subject to the number of vote cast and the composition of the voting audience which may not be the true representation of the target customer of the product. In fact the actually customer may not vote. Moreover, several organization lobby to have people vote for them.
• Confusing customer satisfaction with number of advert media audience during the product advert (Radio or TV): Many do not want to tune away or change channel because they enjoy the show.
• Confusing customer satisfaction with teeming number of referrals: while this is a good sign but it is still not an ultimate sign where is not compared with number of customer lost.
• Confusing customer satisfaction with increasing sales revenue: decomposing sales data may show few customers buying more while those buying bulks are not reducing their purchasing.
• There may be more farce that gives false confidence to organization of their level of customer satisfaction. But relying solely on them may deceive you until when your business is about to be liquidated. How then can we aggregated the diverse expectations of the customer- through customer survey. Customer survey is an active effort of a service provider or manufacturer to try to identify the expectation of his / her customers.
Methodology of customer survey:
• Focus group: a gathering of customer of a brand to air their views on the product and how satisfied they are with it. This is used where the customer a closed by, known and are few or where a sample can be picked. It may be backed up with customer rewards session and or award session.
• Questionnaire: a well-designed questionnaire should be tested internal or on sampled population to ensure it can deliver the expected feedbacks. This method is used where the population is simple, complex, diverse, known or unknown. You must use appropriate sampling techniques before commencing. For service delivering organization, this is simple as sending this to your customers of their sample using stratification where the population is uniquely different. This is more difficult for consumer goods industries in which the end users are not easily identifiable. This may be addressed in three ways:
o Develop Questionnaire and issue it to distributors to issue to retailers who in turn will issue it to customers to fill for a little reward. To prevent the reward from being lost to dishonesty of the distributor or retailer, your representatives must be there to offer the reward. Even with the reward some may still not complete the questionnaire. In addition the reward and manpower make this approach cost intensive.
o Visit the retailers to identify customers in the locations who purchase the products and thereafter visit this customer to complete the questionnaire or tell you how much they enjoy your services. This is stressful and time consuming for the research unit.
o Engage consultants: consultants with competence in this area will greatly reduce your risks and cost of getting reliable customer data. However, the common risk of all methods is the dishonesty of the field officers. An example is a field officer who sits in his sitting room to complete all the questionnaires. This risk is reduced by monitoring during field activities and evaluation after field activities.
Overall benefits of the customer survey
• Timely capture customers expectation and develop strategies to address them. This will keep you abreast of changing customer expectations and ensure continuous customer satisfaction.
• Customer feedback well analysed and articulated could lead to the development or creation of a new products or services.
• It enables you to continuously maintain your market share and compete favourably in the market. Remember customer is a great resource devoid of your control but instrumental to your success and continuous sustainability.
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