In my previous blog I discussed the tyranny of the urgent and why is such a limiting perspective in understanding customers. I closed the blog by pointing out that the focus should always be on all your customers not just the ones who have urgent concerns. In this blog I will point out several techniques which may be useful in understanding the needs of our customers.
Several years ago I was working with the company that had a very complex product which required significant service support. The concern of the company was that the users of the product were not the decision-makers but had significant influence about decisions regarding the product. The product was a complex computer that used very sophisticated software. The end users of the product were scientists. The computer was managed by the IT department. Neither the users of the product nor the IT department made the decisions regarding the product. The decisions were made at a management level above the IT department and the users department (which included all the scientists).
The challenge with this assignment was that there was no department that was responsible for evaluating the performance of the product. Each of the three groups (users, IT, and management) were involved in the decision-making process regarding the performance of the computer. The measure of satisfaction for any one group is not sufficient to understand how well the product is meeting the needs of the customer. This product required a multidimensional model of customer satisfaction that incorporated satisfaction metrics from each of the three departments. The objectives of the metrics were to assess the satisfaction with each organization department and evaluate any inconsistencies in the measures of satisfaction between them. In other words, although satisfaction of each department was important, it was equally important to determine if there were inconsistencies or discrepancies between the scientists, IT department and upper management.
While the metrics for a current customer is important, and is the basis of most customer surveys, some additional areas of interest include the following:
- measurement of concerns from lost customers,
- specific measurements directed toward ultra-valuable customers, and
- measurement of the gaps between customer expectations and the performance delivered.
Reflecting back on the previous blog, the intention here is to provide some areas of interest beyond the basic customer satisfaction survey. The previous blog pointed out the need to separate normal survey responses from responses to customers with urgent needs for support. Curiosity is the watchword for surveys. There are many dimensions of involvement between the company and its customers. Not all contacts between the customer and company are from the end-user.
As an example, consider a previous assignment with another technology company led to the surprising conclusion that the Accounts Receivable department did not have customer skills training and was the primary reason for customer irritation. In fact, the Accounts Receivable department put IBM on credit hold because their payment was overdue. Needless to say IBM was not happy with this treatment.
If your curiosity is great enough, you may find more connections between your company and the customer that may be worth exploring. You may also find that many of the employees involved in those connections do not have customer management skills training. Be Curious!