The continued growth of any organisation will be determined by its ability to deliver superior customer value.
The importance of understanding customer needs is continuously being highlighted. The reason for growing emphasis on customer satisfaction is that satisfied customers lead to a stronger competitive positioning, resulting ultimately in loyal customers, increased market share and profit.
Management teams in all industry sectors are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that their services are customer-focused and that continuous performance improvement is being delivered. It is essential that customer expectations are properly understood and measured and that, from the customers’ perspective, any gaps in service quality are identified. This information then assists a manager in identifying cost-effective ways of closing service quality gaps and of prioritising which gaps to focus on.
Customer satisfaction is influenced by a complex interplay of factors. Customer expectations can pose a major challenge, simply because expectations shift constantly, and they shift easily: they grow, they shrink, they change shape, they change direction. How satisfied (or dissatisfied) the company’s customers are is determined by these expectations and the company’s performance in meeting them.
Customer expectations are influenced by the perceived quality of service that they receive, the quality of the product, if applicable, and the value they receive for the price they pay. The image of a company also influences customer expectations.
The diagram below demonstrates the links between the various elements that drive customer satisfaction.
BMI-TechKnowledge uses best of breed quantitative and qualitative methodologies to measure and define customer satisfaction, to understand customer perceptions and expectations as well as internal staff perceptions of what customers expect from a service point of view.
We also provide strategic advice and recommendations on how to improve customer satisfaction through standard methodologies and additional extras such as a loyalty matrix, qualitative comments from customers and internal staff perceptions. Our industry expertise further assists in positioning customer satisfaction results for our clients.
BMI-T can offer key account/relationship manager training workshops based on the customer satisfaction results as an additional service.
The aim of a customer satisfaction research project is to provide a structured and systematic assessment of a company’s customers’ attitudes and perceptions by carrying out a comprehensive survey which will allow the company to do the following:
- Establish key drivers of customer satisfaction
- Ascertain overall satisfaction with the company, products, services and image
- Identify any performance shortfalls
- Establish any noteworthy differences in perceptions which may exist among customer segments
- Assess various managers’ and departments’ current performance levels and their impact on the service chain
- Establish levels of awareness of services, as well as current use of services, if applicable
- Competitive analysis through assessing the performance of the company relative to competitors§ Proactively manage customer loyalty through a Customer Loyalty analysis
In addition, it is preferable that this research combine the best of:
- A proven methodology for customer perception measurement;
- Integration of any specific processes or questions that the company may wish to ask, over and above the standard service quality metrics.Further objectives are to:
- Conduct the research in a cost-effective manner, combining with other research processes as far as practicable
- Establish a platform for ongoing performance tracking
- Create an information base that will help guide future strategy development and highlight areas of weakness
Apart from the standardised, statistical approach to customer satisfaction research, BMI-T will also make available verbatim commentary which provides insight into the specific attitudes and perceptions of respondents, as well as highlighting any particular problems experienced by the customer. In isolated instances this may have to be balanced against a need to guarantee confidentiality to respondents in order to obtain candid feedback.
BMI-T uses, inter alia, a best-of-breed methodology for customer attitudes and perceptions research, based on the ServQual methodology developed by Berry, Parasuraman and Zeithaml at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. These methodologies have been customised to reflect and be applicable within the South African environment.
Service quality can be defined as the difference between customer expectations of service and perceived service. If expectations are greater than performance, then perceived quality is less than satisfactory and hence customer dissatisfaction occurs (Parasuraman et al., 1985; Lewis and Mitchell, 1990).
The customer satisfaction survey evaluates the following:
- The customer’s overall perceptions of service (satisfaction/dissatisfaction) including quality of service, corporate image and price
- How the company is performing on various components that constitute service quality, and the specific attributes and activities that make up each of these components, as compared to a competitor.
- Any additional questions can be included in the survey.
Some elements of the total customer experience contribute more strongly to customer satisfaction. These are the elements that the company needs to focus on in order to improve overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. BMI-T uses correlation analysis to isolated and identify specific satisfaction drivers in terms of their relative influence on overall satisfaction and therefore, in turn, on future behaviors. The key to success is to focus on what matters most to customers.
BMI-T also suggests that an internal self-completion customer satisfaction survey designed to mirror the respondent questionnaire be completed by the company’s management team and employees who deal with customers.
The concept of measuring the difference between expectations and perceptions is very useful for assessing levels of service quality. This information on service quality can help managers diagnose where performance improvement can best be targeted.
The largest negative gaps, combined with assessment of where expectations are highest, facilitates prioritisation of performance improvement. Equally, if gap scores in some aspects of service do turn out to be positive, implying expectations are actually not just being met but exceeded, then this allows managers to review whether they may be “over-supplying” this particular feature of the service and whether there is potential for re-deployment of resources into features which are underperforming.
The identification of gaps will assist the company in defining appropriate and measurable interventions. We believe that this can be achieved by assessing the satisfaction gaps (or discrepancies) between:
- The customers’ expectations versus management perceptions of their service delivery, (gap 1)
- The customers’ expectations versus the employee’s perception, (gap 6)§ The discrepancy between customer expectations and their perceptions of the service delivered, as a result of the influences exerted from the customer side and the shortfalls (gaps) on the part of the service provider. In this case, customer expectations are influenced by the extent of personal needs, word of mouth recommendation and past service experiences. (gap 5)
BMI-T explores, assesses and analyses all the gaps as discussed above and depicted below. The inter-relationship between these satisfaction/dissatisfaction gaps (or discrepancies) are graphically represented in the following diagram:
BMI-T uses an established and professional field force. Only full time field workers having completed Field Work Training (SAMRA Approved) will be areused. These field workers have had extensive experience. A critical aspect for this project is that the field workers will use the most appropriate language to do the interview and then transcribe the results into English.
The researchers will undergo a thorough briefing process and submit their completed questionnaires on a regular basis to meet quality control measures. There will be is regular submission of questionnaires which will allow allows for the parallel process of back-checking, editing, post-coding and data capture.
Analysis of survey results may take various forms, including the following primary methods:
- Standardised customer satisfaction scoring analysis as per ServQual techniques, including gap analysis
- Competitor benchmarking on same attributes
- Verbatim commentary on attributes with low ratings
- Statistical significance analysis of operational attributes relative to overall satisfaction§ Analysis of ad-hoc questions.
Companies require information that will enable them to act both strategically and tactically in respect of specific customer groups, and in respect of specific internal customer interaction processes. The information gathered in a customer satisfaction survey should be structured to achieve these objectives, and presented in a number of deliverables, including:
- A detailed and interpretive management report, including strategic initiatives on how to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty
- PowerPoint presentation to management in one or more feedback sessions
- Feedback sessions for the company, if required by management
- Excel pivot table containing the tabulated data collected by respondent.