In today's super social world, where customers will let you and everyone else know if they are not happy with your product or service, it is more important than ever to keep customers happy. While making sure customers receive the product or service they ordered on time and as promised is an excellent start, savvy businesses know they often need to go above and beyond on-time shipping if they want to keep customers coming back for more.
So what steps can you take to keep your best customers happy? And how can you tell if customers are truly satisfied? Business owners and managers as well as customer experience experts share their top six tips for tracking, measuring and ensuring customer satisfaction .
1. Thank them -- with a coupon/discount or a gift. "To keep our customers happy we send a postcard after their first order," says Tanner Agar, CEO, The Chef Shelf, an online retailer of specialty foods and chef/restaurant branded products. "It's a thank you, hand signed by the CEO, and has a $5 coupon."
Another way to say 'thank you' to a particularly good or loyal customer? "Send personalized gifts," says Bryce Maddock, cofounder and CEO, TaskUs, which provides customer care and back office support to companies. "Lots of companies send their customers gifts, but [generic thank-you] cards and standard gift baskets are [often] forgotten." Instead, he says, "customize gifts around your clients' personal interests, which you can get by asking them or even doing a little social media stalking."
2. Visit them. "With the technology to video conference, email or automate the entire customer life cycle, few people take the time to go and see their customers [anymore]," says Maddock. "A couple hours face-to-face is better than months worth of standing phone calls. Customers are more honest and open, and appreciate the effort taken to go and see them."
3. Survey them -- via email or after a customer service call. "Measure customer satisfaction by creating a short, three to four question survey," says Jennifer Martin, a business coach at Zest Business Consulting.
"Decide what results you are looking for and create the scale for what the answers might be, indicating what a 1 is (i.e., service is nothing special) and [what] a 10 might be (i.e., I LOVE working with you [or You met my every] need)," Martin says. Just remember that people are pressed for time, so "only ask the most pertinent questions. And if you don't know what they really want, ask them 'What would you say is the most important thing we can provide you?' as a fill-in-the blank."
Another "easy way to measure customer satisfaction is through a simple, binary survey at the conclusion of each customer support interaction," says Timothy Delaney, vice president Customer Success at Directworks, which provides sourcing software for manufacturers. "For example, we use the Zendesk customer service software platform, and a simple 'Good -- I'm Satisfied' or 'Bad -- I'm Unsatisfied' rating for each help desk ticket is captured. Zendesk also lets you measure your results against the aggregated scores of other Zendesk customers in your industry, and provides an easy to use feed to our corporate website so the whole world can see how we are performing."
As for how often you should survey customers, there is no general consensus -- except to not to do it so frequently (e.g., daily, weekly or even monthly) that it becomes an annoyance.
"We created a custom survey that customers receive via email once every 90 days, so frequent customers don't get overwhelmed," says Kevin Gibson, marketing technologist, AlphaGraphics Bountiful, a provider of marketing solutions and business printing.
"When customers are happy, we go the extra step and ask them to either review us online or ask for a professional referral. So not only are we keeping a gauge on our customers, [but we] build business as well," Gibson says. "Maybe more importantly, when customers are unhappy it allows us to react quickly to remedy the problem and do what we can to keep the customer. Luckily this hasn't come up that often, but it has been a life saver the few times it has."
"Our company measures customer satisfaction by allowing users simply to leave telephonic feedback on a 1-to-10 scale at the conclusion of their conversation with a phone representative," explains David Reischer, Internet marketing manager, Legal Marketing Pages. "This method of measuring feedback is helpful because it allows us to gauge how responsive our customer care staff is in assisting our customers."
4. Conduct focus groups. "Focus groups are an excellent way to have a relaxed conversation with your customers," says Pat Campbell, marketing coordinator, Legal Marketing Pages. "A focus group is a great environment to see how your customer reacts to your product and how they behave while using your product. It is a great way to measure customer satisfaction, gather ideas about customer needs and so forth."
5. Check and solicit customer reviews. "A business can gain invaluable feedback on customer satisfaction from online reviews," says Laurie A. Sossa, partner, QualStudios Market Research. "Businesses can have their own blog or website or keep up with reviews on Yelp and Facebook and other social media sites. This is where you will see how your customers are describing you, what they are discussing about you, and what they are asking of you for the next time, enabling you to measure their satisfaction."
"Customer service, much like everything else, has moved online, and while much of the focus has been on Facebook and Twitter recently, trends and studies indicate that user generated online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ Local and Angie's List are a far more powerful tool for measuring customer satisfaction," says Chris Campbell, Chief Tracking Officer at Review Trackers. "So encourage, respond to and manage your company's online reviews for real feedback from your best customers."
6. Make sure your internal customers -- e.g., your salespeople and customer service agents -- are happy. "Happy employees are more motivated and more productive, and therefore able to deliver the highest possible level of customer satisfaction," says Derek Irvine, vice president of Client Strategy and Consulting, Globoforce, which helps companies better connect with and recognize their employees. "So how do you make your employees happy? First and foremost, make sure employees feel appreciated and recognized for their work. According to Globoforce's recent Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 86 percent of employees say being recognized for their efforts motivates them in their job," he explains. "That motivation will have a major impact on customers' happiness and satisfaction. So say 'thank you' to your employees every day; your customers will reap the benefits."
"If you're looking to improve the customer experience, the place to start is with your agents," says Ann Ruckstuhl, CMO, LiveOps, which provides on-demand customer care and support solutions. "According to research by LiveOps with Harris Interactive, 92 percent of consumers report that a customer service agent's perceived happiness has an impact on their experience with the brand. Agent happiness is heavily influenced by their ability to perform their jobs well. By equipping agents with the right tools, their productivity and 'happiness' go up, which translates directly into better customer experiences."
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