By Jim Sobeck
I think most businesspeople are in agreement that high customer satisfaction leads to high profits and low customer satisfaction leads to bankruptcy court. When I bought my current company in 2001, I commissioned a customer satisfaction survey so I would have a baseline to measure whether customer satisfaction increased or decreased on my watch.
The internet was in its infancy then, and the vast majority of our customers didn’t use the internet or e-mail, so I commissioned a market research firm to do a customer satisfaction survey. The survey was conducted via mail with follow-up calls over the phone to people who didn’t respond to the mail survey. The survey took a couple of months from conception to completion and cost almost $5,000.
When we got the results, we were happy with what we saw, but some of the results were open to interpretation. This caused me to want to do a simpler, faster and less expensive survey. As time passed and more of our customers used the internet, we moved to an internet-based customer satisfaction survey using www.surveymonkey.com. This was much less expensive as we were able to draft the questions ourselves and send the survey to our customers via e-mail. Survey Monkey compiled the answers, and within a week we had the results, and at a fraction of the cost of the old-fashioned way.
About 13 years ago when we were doing our corporate rebranding, the branding firm we used, Brains on Fire (www.brainsonfire.com), told us about the net promoter score. If you aren’t familiar with it, I think it’s brilliant in its simplicity. The survey consists of just one question: “Would you recommend our company to a similar company or a colleague?” The theory is that if a high percentage of your customers answer “yes” you have high customer satisfaction, and if they answer “no” you have low customer satisfaction. Also, when your customers see that the survey consists of only one question that can be answered in 5 seconds or less, you tend to get a higher participation rate versus a survey that takes 15 or 20 minutes to complete.
We now send out this one-question survey each quarter and track our results on a spreadsheet so we can compare each score to all our previous scores. Whenever we see our score has dipped, we know that we have work to do. There is also an area below this one question for customers to write in any comments or suggestions they may have. Not many of our customers write in comments, but the vast majority who do have positive comments or praise for various people within our organization. We see very few complaints.
Our most recent quarterly score was one of our best ever. Ninety three percent of our customers say they would recommend us to a similar company or a colleague. Given that, like everyone else in the construction supply industry, we have done quite a bit of belt tightening, it was gratifying to see such high customer satisfaction. That’s quite a testament to our associates, our management and our corporate culture.
If you would like to learn more about the net promoter score, go to www.netpromoter.com.
Net Promoter or Net Promoter Score is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research and is claimed to be correlated with revenue growth.
Jim Sobeck is CEO of New South Construction Supply, a building products distributor based in Greenville with nine locations in the Carolinas and Georgia. He is the author of ““The Real Business 101: Lessons From the Trenches.”