Saturday, March 15, 2014

Your Initial CX Assessment...Part 1 - Industry Surveys

In my previous post, I outlined some potential sources of customer satisfaction information that  can be used to form a preliminary assessment of the current state of the customer experience.  These sources include: industry studies of satisfaction by company (typically referred to as syndicated reports); internal or proprietary customer satisfaction surveys; qualitative research; internal reports directly from the front-line staff that deal directly with customers; and internal reports from the organization’s call center.  In today’s post, let’s have a look at how to use industry surveys as a diagnostic tool.

Industry-Wide Syndicated Surveys
You’ve no doubt seen the ubiquitous advertising touting a company’s rating in a J.D. Power Survey of, take your, airlines, financial services providers, wireless phone carriers, etc.  In these surveys, researchers such as J.D. Power send thousands of questionnaires to, for example, a sample of customers who purchased a new car in the preceding 90-days.  Customers’ responses are statistically analyzed, and a host of performance metrics are produced.  From this, you can learn how your organization performs against select competitors such dimensions as overall satisfaction, likelihood to recommend and repurchase, as well as satisfaction with such things as the company’s website, retail channels, and post purchase service and support.  A few specific questions to ask when looking at industry satisfaction reports...

  • What is the sample size overall, and for each question (remember, customers may respond to some questions, but not all).  Keep an eye out for small samples (typically, less than 100 respondents) particularly if your company has large sales volumes.  If Widget Inc. sells 100,000 widgets every month, you don’t want infer too much from a sample of 70 customers.
  • Select a few of the performance metrics in the report and look at the trends for your company over the last 3 to 5 years...what’s gone up and what’s gone down.  Make a note of these, as you’ll want to explore them in more detail when you start talking to internal staff later on in your current situation assessment.  I can’t overemphasize the importance of trend analysis in your assessment...when it comes time to address particular problem areas, you’ll want to know if this has been a long-standing issue, or something that appeared recently.
  • Some industry-wide reports include something called importance weightings, or loyalty drivers.  These are particular aspects of a company’s performance that, according to the statistical analysis completed by the research firms, are so important to customers that they significantly influence a purchase decision, or a customer’s overall satisfaction with a product or service.  In the case of a wireless carrier, for example, this could be coverage in remote areas.  For a car purchase, an important driver could be the vehicle’s reliability.  
  • A word of caution in using these drivers...not all customers are created equal.  Remember, results from industry surveys are typically aggregated across all respondents...young and old, male and female, thrifty and big-spender.  So, unless these drivers can be identified by (representative) sample sizes, be careful in concluding something like, “ALL of our customers say that the price of our ABC widget is an important purchase consideration.”  Price may be important to the thrifty ones, but the big spenders don’t really care.
  • Where do you rank versus your competitors?  In which facets of the customer experience do they perform well?  Are their customers the same as yours? If so, you may be able to use the survey data to compare their performance against yours along the same attributes.  This can be very instructive as it will allow you to pinpoint the specific areas where customers say you underperform against your competitor(s)...just be careful with sample sizes!

In the next post, we’ll look at how to use the results from your company’s own customer surveys.

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