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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Other opinions about "client satisfaction surveys"

My observations on the SMPS Listserve yesterday provoked two additional postings, which I will relay here.

Jim McKeen of Strategic Marketing Associates in Stow, Ohio wrote:

With all due respect to Mark's comments, I feel compelled to weigh in on this issue.

Having conducted surveys as a profession for the past 11 years, I can say with great confidence that client surveys - including satisfaction surveys -are neither an irritation nor an intrusion if the process is managed properly. In fact, to the contrary, we find that clients are generally happy to provide their input because they know it will impact future service quality. And as a side benefit, most clients are impressed with the fact that their supplier respects their opinions enough to ask for it - "The Voice of the Customer".

The fact is, if managed properly, the percentage of clients that find surveys irritating
and intrusive is low, and you simply don't interview them. You say "not a problem, thanks for your time, and have a great day". And that's the end of it.

So cheer up Mark and any others out there that see the benefit of gaining the clients' perspectives, but have concerns about their reception to the process. It's really just a matter of management and technique, and it's done all the time.

Later in the day, Architectural marketing consultant Frank Smith in Smyrna, Georgia, wrote:

I second Jim McKeen's comments. If properly handled surveys are not intrusive. I have been conducting Client Satisfaction surveys for Clients of mine for over 20 years. I learned after the first couple that the secret to success was to have my Client send a letter to the subjects of the survey saying that I was going to call them. As a result I have consistently had a "hit rate" of 80 per cent.

I have never had a prospect not talk with me, although one in New York called his
attorney first! On a typical survey I will ask for the names of 40 contacts knowing that I will get the 36 responses contracted for in a timely fashion.

Always have an disinterested, experienced outside consultant conduct the survey. It is the only way you can get true value.


Points noted. And, pragmatically, a "client satisfaction survey" can be an effective way to gather intelligence and develop leads for new projects and commissions -- systematically it may be one of the best and quickest routes to refilling your order book in times of economic slowdown.
But I'm still uncomfortable with most of the survey efforts I've seen attempted and I automatically continue to put most survey calls on the polite "decline to participate" list.

I much prefer the strategy outlined by Ford Harding in his comment to my last posting. Enclose a business reply card with invoices, with just a few questions, and have the postpaid reply card be directed to the company president. As Harding notes, few complete the card, but if there are issues, the ones that respond are generally serious and worthy of immediate attention.

2 comments:

Jim McKeen said...

Mark,

Thanks for the invitation to your blog. Great Site! I don't know how much of the construction marketing community is blogging yet, but my hat's off to you. I think you've established a service that will add great value to the industry.

In reference to your thoughts on Client Satisfaction Surveys, I don't view Ford's idea of a business reply card as a substitute for client interviews, but as an additional tool in the arsenal for gaining feedback, opinions, and insights from clients, prospects, stakeholders, and influencers.

To be honest, there's no comparison between the two of them. Client surveys allow the opportunity for probing and dialogue that a reply card doesn't, and it allows organizations to obtain a comprehensive snapshot of the market's perspectives at a particular point in time rather than piece meal, through the occasional submittal of reply cards.

Here's my challenge to you Mark. If you're ever in Cleveland, stop by our office and I'll show you some examples of the richness of critical opinions and insights that we obtain through client satisfaction surveys.

If I don't convert you to a believer in the tremendous value and executability of client surveys, I'll treat you to a Cavs, Indians, or Browns game. The Browns will be tough this year, mark my words.

But if I do convert you, you treat me.

Best Regards,
Jim McKeen

Mark Buckshon said...

Jim, thanks for your offer. I may take you up on it later. Cleveland is on my "to visit" list especially because I have a friend there (we met through the Internet and personally in Ottawa/Toronto) who taught me more about turning airline loyalty programs on their heads (for the client/flier's benefit) than anyone I know. The experiences have given me a lifetime of stories -- including how I invited 20 friends/employees to $150 hotel meals here "paid" for by 20 handicapped Thai nationals!

I think the challenge is that much "client satisfaction survey" practice is done poorly and offensively -- business people like me receive as many unwelcome 'survey' calls as we do uninvited calls from scripted telemarketers. Third party surveys may cash a fresh perspective on a business stuck in its ways (and believing its own propaganda) but I still see a real place/importance for measuring this yourself, with sensitivity and direct communication/feedback.