What Do Your Customers Really Think of You? - Part 2
Harry W. Heermans, Jr.
This is the second article in the series, What Do Your Customers
Really Think of You, where we explore different ways of performing
active listening, a systematic way of asking your customers what
they think of your products and services. Leonard Berry, in his
book Discovering the Soul of Service, categorizes 11 approaches
companies can use to build a service listening system. Each has
its strengths and weaknesses, which we’ll highlight. In this
newsletter we’ll look at transactional surveys; mystery shopping;
and new, declining, and lost customer surveys.
Description: A transactional survey is administered following
a service encounter to determine whether or not customers are
Purpose: The purpose of the survey is to obtain feedback soon
after the encounter has happened so customers readily remember the
event. If the feedback is negative, changes can be made quickly to
Frequency: Transactional surveys can be given at any time.
They are particularly effective in measuring the effectiveness of
change, i.e., just before and after a planned service change or
Limitations: Since transactional surveys ask about the most
recent experience rather than customers’ overall opinion of
service, it is not useful for assessing the ongoing impact of
continuing service over time. Also, it does not account for the
opinion of non-customers.
Description: In “mystery shopping”, researchers act as
customers to see what the customer experience is like and evaluate
Purpose: It is used to measure the performance of front-line
personnel, overall response time, and systematic strengths and
weaknesses in the customer contact service. The results are often
used for coaching, training, and performance evaluation.
Frequency: Mystery shopping is expensive, so it is often used
sparingly, no more than once or twice a year.
Limitations: Mystery shopping relies on the subjective
judgment of researchers, so care must be taken in training them to
approach each encounter consistently and to rate experiences as
objectively as possible. Mystery shopping is inappropriate for
some industries, where it is impossible to “create” a customer who
is unknown to the customer service organization. Since some amount
of deception is involved in “mystery shopping”, it is important to
explain to employees the reason for and the value of this
approach, otherwise there is the potential to damage employee
Declining and Lost-Customer Surveys
Description: These surveys are given to new customers to
determine why they have chosen a particular product or service,
and to customers who have reduced or stopped using services
Purpose: These assessments are useful in determining why
customers who have not used the product or service before chose to
do so, what has changed that has caused customers to fall off, and
what the reasons are that former customers have decided to forego
purchasing the product or service altogether.
Frequency: These surveys can be given at any time, but
offering them when there is either a significant uptrend or
downturn is particularly useful.
Limitations: The company must be able to identify specific
customers who fall into the appropriate categories and enlist
their cooperation to participate.
next few newsletters, we’ll focus on additional active listening
techniques, including focus groups; customer advisory panels;
service reviews; customer complaint, comment, and inquiry capture;
and total market surveys.
Previous articles in this series:
What Do Your Customers Really Think of
You? - Part 1