Here are 8 ways to improve customer satisfaction
To build and maintain a successful business, you need happy customers. When a job is well done, not only does it feel great, but it also builds customer loyalty. Customer satisfaction translates into repeat business, which is good for business since retaining clients is easier and less expensive than acquiring new ones.
While the jury is out on exactly how much more new clients cost — some say 5% and others say up to 25% — the consensus is that a customer retention strategy is equally as important as a customer acquisition strategy.
Although neither should replace the other, developing loyal customers should be front and centre in your marketing and customer relationship strategy. Client satisfaction is the key to creating a differential in a market where it's hard to stand out on services alone.
Doing a good job is great. But tracking your customer experience is what will get you insights. With a framework to ask questions, learn customer expectations and examine your customer journey, you’ll be well equipped to make serious improvements in overall satisfaction. And when you improve satisfaction rates your revenue grows, too.
What is customer or client satisfaction?
In a strategic context, customer satisfaction measures how well your company’s services meet your customer's expectations. It’s a metric that helps you to discover customer needs you may not have previously been aware of and shows you a path to improve customer loyalty.
Bad experiences can be identified and addressed. Positive experiences can be highlighted and put forward as a standard. And customer churn can be reduced.
How to measure customer satisfaction
Measuring something as personal and subjective as satisfaction may seem tricky, but it's actually really simple: you just have to ask.
Seeing a customer return indicates that they're satisfied, but asking them for a rating or more information about their experience goes a step further to tell you why.
Introducing customer satisfaction surveys
Surveys are the simplest way to engage your customers. It’s a measurable framework that allows you to learn what they think of your business and your service. Two of the most common surveys are the CSAT and the NPS.
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
A CSAT survey tracks customer satisfaction by asking for a rating, typically from a range of 1-to-5. The basic starting question for the CSAT is: how would you rate your experience with our company? Then you can dig a little deeper.
It's good to think of the different touch points involved in the customer journey. You might want to ask about their experience finding you online, contacting you, setting up an appointment, how they would rate the service, and how they would rate the person who provided the service.
Once you've gone through these ratings, you can then ask open-ended questions at the end to give them a chance to offer feedback.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Much more simplified is the net promoter score system. This survey asks just one question: How likely are you to refer us to a friend or colleague?
There are two ways to conduct the NPS surveys:
To measure the relational score of your customers, you would send the survey out at a time when they're not engaged in a process with your business. This way, they're giving feedback on their overall feelings rather than a specific service.
Transactional, comparatively, would be sent just after providing a service so that you're getting their feelings about the specific experience they've just had.
A two-fold approach works well. The relational may be something you send out quarterly or every six months. And the transactional can be an auto email scheduled when a service is complete.
Customer effort score (CES)
Worth a mention is the customer effort score, which gauges how easy it was for your client or customer to interact with your company. This method is better suited to online businesses or product businesses than services like accounting, legal, or consulting. For example, organisations that have customer support departments and customers calling in with issues that need handling.
The question here is: How easy or difficult was it for you to interact with our company?
There are many ways to send out your surveys. You could use a specialised tool like SurveyMonkey, or you could make your own on Google Forms. Then you just need your questions.
Every business should think about how they frame these questions to reflect their particular service and brand. E.g. If you're a professional services business dealing with mature clients, you will want to keep your questions professional:
"Based on your recent experience, how likely are you to refer us to a friend or colleague?"
If you're in a younger or more hip kind of services industry, you could inject a bit more personality, like:
"How'd we do? On a scale from 1-5, how likely is it that you'd refer us to friends, family or colleagues?"
Survey templates for CSAT surveys
As the CSAT explores a few different questions, you can break up the way you ask them. For example, you may start with:
"Considering your overall experience, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?"
Then you can get more specific with a questionnaire that asks them to select from:
- Very Satisfied
- Very Dissatisfied
The question may be: "Please rate our accounting services for the following parameters:"
Those parameters could then be:
- "Interaction with your accountant"
- "Overall service delivered"
Following this, you can learn about their expectations and whether you meet them. This could be in the form of a questionnaire that asks them to answer:
- Extremely well
- Somewhat well
- Not so well
- Not at all well
And the question would simply be: "How well did our service meet your expectations?"
Finally, you will want to include an open-ended question to encourage more specific feedback:
"Considering your overall experience, how would you describe your interaction with our business?"
Finding meaning in customer satisfaction metrics
Now that you've gotten all of this feedback, you need a platform on which to store and analyse the data. Fortunately, modern survey software makes this simple. If you used a survey platform like SurveyMonkey, for instance, the info you need will be accessible through the software. If you used a Google Form, this information could be put onto a Google Sheet or Excel.
If you have conducted NPS surveys, the info can be broken down into three categories that tell you very clearly how loyal your existing customers are.
- Respondents offering scores of 0 to 6 can be considered unhappy customers
- Response rates of 7 or 8 are typically pleased but somewhat indifferent
- Survey responses of 9 or 10 are your very satisfied customers - the ones most likely to get your word of mouth referrals
With this information, you can quickly see your customer satisfaction levels, finding a percentage of unhappy, indifferent, and happy customers. Then, you can go about improving these results.
The CSAT is a little harder to break up in such a clean way, but it will give you more actionable takeaways. You will want to capture your scores and multiple answer results on a spreadsheet to analyse, and then open-ended answers should be reviewed for actionable items.
8 tips for using customer satisfaction metrics to boost client satisfaction
With your scores and metrics, you will deduce how well you're doing overall at retaining clients. Chances are, no matter how well you're doing, there will always be room to improve.
1. Benchmark your metrics
The metrics you get in the first place will be your benchmark. You want to improve from here with every new round of surveys that go out.
If you don't have a lot of specific feedback to work with, you can tweak internal processes, one at a time, to see if this makes a difference to your scores. Perhaps you introduce a new booking tool, or you train your staff on ways to improve communication. Then you measure your new survey results with the old ones to see what's changing.
2. Take action on your client feedback
This kind of market research is invaluable to your business. Once you have those responses, make it a point to act on them. Here’s a suggested flow you can use to deal with client feedback:
- Issue reported
- Investigate issue: talk to the staff in question or explore the case to figure out what happened
- Take corrective action: speak to the person in question or improve the process in question
- Customer follow up: apologise for the bad experience and ask if they would be willing to help you rectify it — ask them more questions, especially: "What could we do to improve your experience with us moving forward?"
- Root cause analysis: understand if the problem came from poor processes, a culture issue, a misunderstanding, etc.
- Preventive action: set up better processes, train staff to communicate more effectively, etc.
- Client follow up: let them know that you have actioned this and taken steps to stop this from happening again
- Verify effectiveness: review your surveys and see if this action is changing your scores
- Client survey: repeat the process
3. Always be available
Now that you've introduced a process for taking feedback, you must be available, always, to take it. Introduce survey links on your website. You can say something like "tell us how we're doing" and give them a range of 1-5 to answer. You can do the same on your email signature or introduce follow-up calls to ask clients about their experience.
Customer satisfaction practices are not just a one-time thing. To get the most from them, you should develop a customer-centric culture.
4. Communicate across departments
Your customer base will often engage with more than one person in your business. All departments must be on board with your commitment to customer satisfaction and are aware of how to respond to feedback.
Your receptionist, for example, should know the best person to escalate issues to. They should also be coached on how to handle disgruntled clients. Likewise, back-office staff that are not typically client-facing (e.g., accounts receivable staff) should be coached on their email communication when invoicing clients.
Bringing all departments together creates the culture and helps you to optimize the efficacy of your efforts. It could even be a good idea to have monthly or quarterly meetings about the feedback you're receiving and get input from staff on what they think could help improve the experience.
5. React in real-time
The action cycle above is something that needs to be done very quickly after the feedback is taken. If you call that client months later, they're going to feel like their feedback was not a high priority for you. The relationship will be harder to win back.
Quick action lets you nip things in the bud as soon as they come to your attention. It wins favour with your clients and builds strong relationships. This kind of real listening and real-time action is what can turn unsatisfied clients into one of your best sources of referrals.
6. Introduce personalization
As you go on for a while, your customer satisfaction survey questions should develop to become more personalised. You can do this by segmenting your audience. Say you have some customers that come to your for business accounting services and others that are yearly clients for tax returns. Some are repeat clients for years, and others have only worked with you once.
Segmenting your contacts helps you engage in a more relevant way with each client, and it helps you get more nuanced results based on the type of relationship you have. E.g. you may notice that new clients love you, but older clients are feeling disgruntled. Segmentation and personalisation help you to build out a much broader client satisfaction landscape.
7. Make informed improvements
After you've built up a pool of extremely valuable feedback, you have the ultimate list of actionable ways to improve your service. The best place to start is with positive feedback.
Although we focus a lot on actioning issues, the good news is that you're bound to get a lot of positive feedback in there, too. And these will be things you're already doing that customers really appreciate. With these highlighted, you can do more of the good stuff.
Perhaps you have a staff member who is particularly strong in communication, and you notice they're getting a lot of praise for this. Get them to train the rest of the office on how they do this.
8. Monitor what customers are not saying to you
Outside of your company-led surveys, there are many ways the customers will express their feelings about your business. Social media is a good place to look for this. Check for mentions of your business name and answer all posts as quickly as possible.
Also, check out your competitors and what people are saying about them. See if there are insights you can take from those experiences to improve your own.
It’s all about communication
Generating high customer satisfaction in the professional services sectors most often comes down to exceptional communication. The surveys you send out are helping you to communicate and learn how to improve those communications to strengthen those relationships.
Before you have a wealth of customer feedback to work with, tightening up your communications is the most surefire step to improving your customer satisfaction scores.
Your engagement letters, proposals, payment, and billing requests all fit into your company communications and, as such, directly impact the service experience.
Practice Ignition helps accountants and other professionals to stay on top of these types of client management activities. Our client engagement and commerce platforms helps professional services businesses streamline client engagement, so you can improve your growth and efficiency — all while creating win-win client relationships.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial today to get started. Our client onboarding team can help you improve the client management process, so you need only to work on your first-class services.
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