What Do Your Customers Really Want

Jonathan Imberi 
2002

How can you discover the wants and needs of your customers? 

Just ask them. 

That's right; the customer satisfaction survey is an extremely useful piece of market research that can support a wide variety of business decisions. This article will arm you with some introductory details of the customer satisfaction research process so you can get in touch with your most valuable asset - your customers. 

Why Conduct Customer Satisfaction Surveys? 

You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: It is far more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain existing ones. That's the mantra of all customer satisfaction research and the logical foundation for any customer retention program. Customer satisfaction research helps marketers get out of the risky game of trying to outguess the needs of their customers by providing a blueprint for product, service, or company changes that will keep customers coming back. 

There are two main elements of every customer satisfaction survey: quality evaluation and segmentation questions. The quality evaluation measures customer attitudes toward different aspects of the product, service, or company. Segmentation questions are used to slice up the quality evaluation feedback into more meaningful sub-segments - for example, customers versus non-customers. 

Two key principles to think about when selecting qualities for additional evaluation are efficiency and specificity. Efficiency involves getting as much mileage as possible from each quality item by avoiding overlap. While qualities such as "relevance of product information" and "usefulness of product information" do represent slightly different product information dimensions, they are close enough that you may decide it's not worth spending valuable space in your questionnaire to evaluate them both. 

Specificity refers to the level of detail reached with the qualities that you've selected. Take care to choose items that are specific enough to be controlled. A quality such as "the quality of your shopping experience" is too broad to be of real value. The quality of a customer's shopping experience encompasses many different elements and would not provide guidance on changes that should be made. 

Measuring Satisfaction 

Satisfaction is almost always measured on a numerical scale. A handful of technical methodology decisions need to be made, including how many points should be on the scale and whether your scale should have a midpoint. 

But you don't need to become paralyzed by all these details. Just make sure you pick a scale that allows a reasonable amount of discrimination (the most common scales range from 4 to 9 points), and let the professionals at SendJax evaluate your scale labels to avoid subjective biasing. 

Customer Satisfaction Analysis 

To modify your customer’s experience in a manner that will have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, you must know which qualities are actually important to your customers. The most direct way is to ask customers how important each quality is to them, using the same numerical scale that you use for the satisfaction measurement. 

The dual measurements you have for each critical quality - importance and satisfaction - can be combined in several useful ways. SendJax makes use of this data to create Performance Reports, taking out all of the hassle in the analysis process. You will receive reports analyzing all the data gathered. Listed below are just a few of the types of information available in the Performance Reports: 

  • Which qualities are important to your customers 
  • Which qualities are not being met satisfactorily 
  • Which qualities pose business risks based on importance and customer satisfaction 
  • Which qualities coincide with desired customer behaviors 

From Analysis to Action 

Once the analysis is complete, you must use it to make business decisions. Two of the most common ways to use customer satisfaction surveys are: 

As a diagnostic tool - Qualities that show up as important but unsatisfying ("business risks") to customers should be flagged as high-priority candidates for modification. 

To link customer attitudes with behavior - Knowing which quality's satisfaction is most highly correlated with a desired behavior, such as purchasing, can be extremely helpful for understanding your customers' motivations. 

Once you've mastered the fundamentals of customer satisfaction research, you will have developed a powerful competitive advantage for your company.