Sweeping Employee Training and Management
Asking Questions to Ensure Ongoing Customer Satisfaction
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
One of the best ways to make sure your current customers want to stay with your company is to provide excellent follow-up whenever they have a problem or a perceived problem. In business management books and elsewhere one of the common phrases used is that it you should have a goal of "WOW"ing the customer.
iContact, the company WorldSweeper uses for group e-mails like the WorldSweeper.com newsletter, provides an excellent role model for this concept.
Recently when I talked to a member of iContact's customer support team I received an invitation to complete a customer satisfaction survey. This article discusses the items included in that survey, as well as my own comments on the value(s) some of the questions provide. Because this is a national company the principles embodied in the iContact survey have no doubt been developed by leading thinkers in the customer service field.
To begin with, iContact internally operates under five principles that company management calls "WOW ME." These are:
W – Wow the Customer
The company's stated goal is to deliver all five WOW ME values during every interaction with its customers. One way they measure the success of their efforts is to provide a survey with five levels of satisfaction, where one is not at all satisfied and five is extremely satisfied. "We strive," the questionnaire emphasizes, "for fives."
The first two questions ask the customer to rate its entire experience with the company, including all interactions the customer may have had, i.e., the customer's overall satisfaction level with the company. The next four questions concern the customer satisfaction level with the customer support person they just spoke to. In a nice twist of personalization the company's form survey includes the first name of the customer support person you spoke to, who in my case was named Susie.
"Did Susie wow YOU?" question three asks. "We [want to] wow you with our product service and attitude. We value our customers because your success drives ours. We keep you in mind when making decisions and you feel like we went above and beyond with you today."
Question number four asks: Did we "Operate with Urgency? We seek to resolve your issue through speed and action. We seize opportunity while maintaining quality. We own the issue. Today not tomorrow!" This question empowers the company's employees to find a solution to your situation while you're on the phone.
In a world which has become increasingly homogenized in almost all ways I was particularly struck by question number five: Did we "Operate Without Mediocrity? We understand your needs and provide you with thorough and accurate information. We engage in honest and direct communication, and make our commitments to you thoughtfully. We resolve your issues, or give you viable alternatives."
Question number six implies something that many companies do not consider, which is the long-term perception of the company's ethics by its customers. The question recognizes that each of us, both personally and professionally, leaves a "wake" behind us, one that is created by everything we do, every decision we make. Did we "Make a Positive Wake?," question six asks.
The customer is then asked to rate the company on how he or she perceives the firm as follows: "We are ethical, act with integrity, and follow the Golden Rule of “do unto others”. We have a positive attitude and are confident, friendly and professional. You can sense that we love what we do!"
The final WOW ME question of the survey is another one with far-reaching implications. Did we "Engage as an Owner?" it asks. "We hold ourselves accountable. We value your time as if it was our own. We efficiently explain our features and policies, and provide you with helpful recommendations. We enable and empower our team members to make decisions."
The first part of this question speaks to the efficiency with which the customer service representative answered your questions and understood your situation, as well as how professionally they responded. The last part, though, "enable and empower our team members to make decisions," is one that would directly instill in company employees the belief that they are empowered and supported by management in the decisions they make.
So many times in today's business culture employees seem to be afraid to make decisions, whether through lack of training or fear of reprisal. Most seem afraid they'll get into trouble if they make an on the spot decision, so relatively minor decisions are booted uphill to management. This both devalues the employee and frustrates the customer. Much better is to provide employees with the training and decision-making tools they need to satisfy customer requests. When minor decisions are made quickly it maximizes the customer's satisfaction level at little risk to the company.
Employee empowerment can be a huge time saver for the company management team, while it serves to increase customer satisfaction, creating a win-win all around. It also increases an employee's satisfaction level with working at your firm as well as helps to train your next level of management.
The final questions on iContact's survey should not be discounted, either. Question number eight asks "Based on your interaction with iContact Support today, how likely are you to continue to use iContact for your email marketing needs?" Note that this question speaks to the overall level of satisfaction the customer has with the firm. Loyalty, if you will. When you have customers who give a high score in an area such as this -- whether on a questionnaire or in verbal conversation -- they are prime subjects to consider for testimonials and referrals.
Question number nine is: "How satisfied are you with our current hours of Customer Support (M-F 8a-8p ET)? We are looking to expand!" This question seeks to uncover problems before they occur. It is designed to "take the customer's pulse" on an important topic.
The second sentence further instills confidence in the customer that iContact is healthy and profitable. In the parking lot sweeping industry this question might be "How satisfied are you with the times we are sweeping your lot and the equipment we are using?" In a municipal sweeping situation you might ask "How good a job do you perceive our sweeper did on the area in front of your home or business?"
Finally, iContact's question number 10 included a space for additional comments. Having such an area is extremely important. By asking for additional comments the company has an opportunity to learn information in areas where it does not know the questions to ask. In a verbal dialogue with the customer you might ask "Is there anything our company could be providing to make you were satisfaction level higher than it is today?"
Alternatively – and especially if you are considering expanding the services that you currently offer – you might ask "Are there any other services you would like to see our company provide?"
In total, getting answers to questions such as these can provide an ongoing snapshot of how customers perceive your entire company operation. They can serve as an early warning system, allowing you time to make necessary changes that will ensure your company's ongoing viability. And, they can inform you about which of your customers could use some additional support to ensure their loyalty.
It is widely believed that gaining new customers can cost you as much as five times the expense of retaining your current ones. Incorporating the types of principles discussed in this article will help your company become better able to keep its current customers while at the same time ensuring that your internal structure is such that you will be able to retain new customers once you get them.
Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor of WorldSweeper.com, is a Masters-level economist who has over 30 years of experience in assisting companies with sales, marketing and other concerns. He is also the world's most prolific author on the topic of power sweeping.
This article was added to WorldSweeper.com in October, 2010. For more information about iContact's email services, go to www.iContact.com. Note that if you sign up with iContact using this "affiliate link," a portion of your monthly fees will go to support WorldSweeper.com. There will be no additional charges to you or your company.
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