What Do Your Customers Really Think of You?
Harry W. Heermans, Jr.
This is the
fourth article in the series, What Do Your Customers Really Think
of You. We have been looking at formal approaches to active
listening, the term coined by Leonard Barry in Discovering the
Soul of Service to describe how to query your customers to find
out their impressions and opinions of your service offerings. In
this installment, we review: customer complaint, comment, and
inquiry capture; total market surveys; and employee field
complaint, comment, and inquiry capture
This is a systematic method of capturing customers’ complaints,
observations, and questions. These systems vary, all the way from
sophisticated computerized Customer Relationship Management
systems to penciled notes scribbled by front line staff.
Regardless of the method, it is crucial to have a well-understood
and rigorously followed procedure for recording, categorizing,
tracking, and distributing these comments.
These forms of communication are used to identify the most common
sources of service failure, with the goal of improving service and
strengthening customer relationships.
This should be done continuously.
Customers who are dissatisfied with service often do not complain
directly to the company so the incidence of bad service may be
underestimated. On the other hand, chronic complainers may
unfairly skew the distribution in the other direction, so the
analysis of complaints and comments is only a partial picture of
the state of service.
The surveys cover both the company’s customers and the external
market, which includes competitors’ customers. They measure
customers’ overall assessment of customer service.
Purpose: The goal of a total market survey is to compare a
company’s customer service against competitors, to measure
improvement over time, and to identify service improvement
Frequency: These surveys are most often given semiannually
These surveys do not assess individual service encounters.
These are reports garnered from service staff in the field. To be
effective, this must be a formal process, with a way of
categorizing and distributing the results.
To capture and share intelligence uncovered by field
representatives about service expectations, perceptions, and
Field employee reporting can be done continuously or on a periodic
basis, such as monthly or quarterly.
Employees must be motivated to complete reports conscientiously
and completely. The more the report is standardized and composed
of multiple-choice selections, the more likely it is to be
completed. Standardized reports, however, miss the richness that
free-form observations can render.
In the next
newsletter, we complete our series with employee surveys and
service operating data capture.
in this series can be viewed at: