The importance of being customer-centric
There are frequent articles in the marketing media around the importance of listening to customers, soliciting their views and acting on their feedback. Many companies have created online communities and customer panels for just that purpose – to ascertain how happy/satisfied customers are with the service they receive and to address any potential issues. What’s more, there’s a great deal to be said for involving customers in the NPD process and ensuring that any service enhancements are fit for purpose.
But how do market research companies go about making sure that their clients are happy and that the debrief and insights that have been produced have delivered against expectations – or even surpassed them? For a number of years we’ve asked our clients to fill in a customer satisfaction questionnaire, rating every element of the project on a scale and with the opportunity to provide detailed feedback around the service they received and how satisfied they are with every element of a project. One of the problems with this technique is that not every client sends back their questionnaire. In fact, one could argue that those who are dissatisfied are less likely to spend time filling in a form – and so valuable information is not captured. Also, in the same way that expensive tracking studies can end up in the digital equivalent of a bottom desk drawer and are rarely consulted, so customer satisfaction data can remain just that – data rather than insight.
With this in mind, we recently decided to embark on a strategy of interviewing clients after a project has finished – to understand how happy they are with what we delivered, and to identify any potential areas where we could improve. Not all clients, and not after every project – but a good sample across different types of project, large and small. And these interviews will never be conducted by anyone who has been involved in the project – ensuring that clients feel free to voice their true opinion without worrying about potentially “hurt feelings”. Conducting interviews has a number of advantages – it allows the client the flexibility of talking about areas that are important to them rather than simply going through a tick box process. What’s more, actually voicing any concerns to a human being is more cathartic – I’ve always found that a problem aired is a problem partly-solved. And perhaps most importantly, the onus is then on the interviewer to share findings with the team and to raise any issues that need addressing.
Of course we’re hoping that every client will tell us that we’ve delivered well beyond their expectations. But if we’re to keep improving our client service, and to continue to see clients coming back to us time and again, we need to identify any areas where we can be better at what we do. So if you’re a client reading this post, we hope you’ll agree to be interviewed if we ask you and that you’ll provide us with full and frank feedback about your latest project with us.