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Business Unusual

Customer satisfaction in the digital age

4 August 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

Customer satisfaction is a relatively new concept, customer dissatisfaction is ancient.

We can trace the history of poor service to a person called Nanni. The shipment of copper ore that was ordered did not arrive on time and was of poor quality.

What makes this report remarkable is that it was sent by the unhappy merchant over 3500 years ago.

The clay tablet is held by the British Museum and because we are living in the digital age you can see it for yourself by clicking the link.

Expectation versus reality

Customer satisfaction is the measure of how well the product or service matched the expectation.

You might think that if the product or the service was consistent that the satisfaction would be too, but consider two people taking the same flight to a destination. One is starting a long awaited holiday, the other is having to travel for work and leaving a sick child at home.

Regardless of the service, the likelihood that the work traveller would rate the service as highly as the person heading off on holiday is low.

So how could companies look to make both travellers' trips as good as they can be?

Reducing friction

One focus is to consider removing anything that is not absolutely required so the passengers can arrive just before the flight and board the plane with minimum fuss.

Security measures limit how much you could do, but to the credit of airlines and airports they have looked to simplify everything else from online check-ins to baggage check-ins to supplying tickets digitally and providing directions to your gate via the airport or airline app.

Even so, things will go wrong and the biggest issue a customer will have is who to contact when something does not work. Even though we have had two decades of more and more online interactions, we still look to speak to a human when we are unhappy.

I recall a story of a British bus commuter who was unhappy with the speed the bus driver was driving, tweeted the bus company which sent a message to their operations centre to check the bus speed and then instructed the driver to slow down.

Singapore actually studied it.

Younger generations may prefer this option but for a while business will need to cater to both.

The challenge is how to respond to clients when you have a lot of clients. Consider the challenge to a telecommunications company with millions of customers. Even though most will be happy most of the time, if just half a percent had an issue on a daily basis that would still be at least 40 customers an hour during office hours looking for help.

The solution is to determine what might go wrong and provide a way for customers to either avoid the issue or deal with it easily when it does happen.

In the past you needed to ask customers what they thought and often would not get very accurate feedback. Some behavioural scientists think we should avoid asking customers in favour of noting what they do instead.

Kristen Berman argues that asking customers is not as usual as solving their problems and making things easy.

Another option is to ask for a very simple reaction - are you happy or not? This seems like an obvious option and odds are you have used one of the simple keypads that asks you how you feel about a retail experience.

The surprising thing is that it is not as old a service as you might imagine. The most successful version was founded by a Finnish duo in 2009.

Heikki Väänänen, one of the founders was unhappy with his experience in a store but could not find anyone to give it to and that stuck with him. Eventually it led to the creation of HappyorNot. Just four buttons to determine if your experience was good, bad or average.

Nothing else required and typically the feedback machines are placed as you leave the store or complete your online activity.

The responses create a surprisingly robust measure of satisfaction. If you count daily transactions versus daily reactions, it creates a baseline for engagement.

Should the ratio be very low, it may suggest the machine is not in the best location or the general satisfaction is not very high.

Average and unhappy reactions are a clear indication that more work is needed.

Some argue that staff may press the happy option themselves, but as they are unlikely to press the unhappy button the weighting given to those scores is greater. The system only logs the time the button was pressed and so if many occur in quick succession it suggests someone was trying to game it.

One reaction in a furniture company saw higher positive ratings in the mornings when sales were lower while lower ratings when sales were higher in the afternoon.

Rather than assume the staff were less helpful in the afternoons, they determined that there were too many customers for the staff to properly serve. Adding more staff saw the happiness rise along with increased sales.

I recently was asked to fill in a form that asked for my ID number, I am not a fan of sharing it but it also asked that I fill in my age. That is poor design, as if you require someone to give their ID number you can determine their age and birthday as it is included in the ID. It will also disclose your gender so that too would not be needed.

The best forms only ask the bare minimum. Many companies think they need to collect as much as possible about a new or potential customer, but if you consider what percentage of forms are abandoned you are getting a much stronger signal from potential customers that they are unwilling to fill in your forms than those that follow through with it.

Finding your fans

Besides the customer satisfaction scale there is also the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This simple survey asks how likely you are to recommend the company to others. Those that rate it 9 or 10 are considered fans, those with 7 or 8 are considered passive and scores below 6 indicate they are likely to be negative.

The best combination is to place yourself in the shoes of your customer and to determine how many steps are required to complete your transaction. If you can make it simpler to do it. Then ask them how happy they are and sometimes check how likely they are to be your fans.

And if you do happen to ship copper ore, please keep your customers updated about when they will receive it.

4 August 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

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