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Customer satisfaction was once the primary focus of any enterprise selling goods or services, with business owners realizing that small increases in approval resulted in greater profits and repeat business. Unfortunately for buyers, the growth of the Internet marketplace tempted many firms to adopt the idea that measuring customer satisfaction was not nearly as important as analyzing bottom-line sales figures. Virtual storefronts and self-service websites led to impersonal transactions between a company and its customers, and many operations failed to realize that a greatly expanded pool of potential customers translated to an equally vast increase in competition. Measuring customer satisfaction is even more important in the modern age than it was during the “Mom and Pop” era.
Traditional methods of measuring customer satisfaction — tracking sales volume, internal surveys of customer service representatives, and tabulating percentages of returns and complaints — provide only a brief overview of customer likes and dislikes. To properly measure customer satisfaction, traditional methods must be enhanced with surveys and questionnaires, focus groups, and statistically viable metrics. Information is key, and should be obtained from the customer base, from internal sales people and customer service representatives, and via a quantitative analysis of image and name recognition amongst the general public. When gathering opinions directly from consumers, it is crucial that emphasis be placed not only upon how buyers feel about a product itself, but also upon a wide sampling of subjective comments regarding ease of purchase, helpfulness and courtesy of sales staff, customer attitudes toward competing products, and delivery times.
One of the most important methods of measuring customer satisfaction consists of measuring the input of potential buyers, rather than focusing strictly on existing buyers. Repeat customers tend to already have a high level of satisfaction, and it is more important to a firm’s growth to understand why a buyer chooses to spend money with a competitor. The most effective methods of measuring customer satisfaction are written questionnaires and surveys that protect anonymity. Data should rarely be compiled via one-to-one contact between sales staff and buyers. A buyer in such a scenario will often give answers he believes the salesperson wants to hear, and the resulting data may be flawed.
When embarking on a program of customer satisfaction measurement, a company should first define its own objectives. It must determine its goals and pre-plan acceptable limits of dissatisfaction within the pool of buyers. Fulfilling the expectation of all customers is impossible, but by utilizing regular and consistent polling a firm can correct small problems before they become large, remain competitive, and improve over-all profits.