Planning Your First Customer Satisfaction Research Project?

Are you planning your first Customer Satisfaction project? If so, please take a moment and check all that apply (well, mentally anyway):

– I feel confused by all of the different methodology recommendations I am getting
– I feel a bit stunned by some of the proposed budgets
– I am wondering how my organization will actually use the results when the project is done
– I am worried that I don’t know enough to anticipate likely roadblocks

If some or all of these statements apply to you, don’t worry. These are perfectly common concerns, and just show that you are thinking carefully about the realities of conducting a customer satisfaction project.

So to help you get started, I’ll address some of these items briefly.

What methodology will be best?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Lots of methods can be used (including various qualitative and quantitative ones).  Your best mix will be selected based on:

  • How you plan to use the research results. For example, a design meant to provide inputs to executive bonus calculations will be different than one designed primarily to inform organizational performance goals. In fact, any consultant or sales person who tells you their approach is the only legitimate one is only interested in sales—not insights.
  • Your customer base. Its size, profile and geographic distribution all come into play. A customer sat (and yes, that is the vernacular) project designed for a consumer goods manufacturer in a highly competitive market with millions of customers worldwide will not be the same as one for a B2B software company with a primarily US-based client base of 500.
  • Your budget. Yes, I said it. Any customer sat project can be designed (or, over-designed) to the tune of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. But maybe your budget is limited. If your budget is $50,000, or even $20,000, options exist. Not all research firms will be interested (some are operationally optimized for larger studies), but plenty will be. Be honest about your budget limits and you will get appropriate proposals.

How will my organization use the final results?

The most common real-world uses of customer sat data are:

  • To set and track organizational performance goals. For example, a company may have as a stated goal, “80% of customers report they will buy from us again in the next 6 months.” (Of course, just because 80% say they will, doesn’t mean 80% will in reality. Still, the fact they think they will is important).
  • To generate inputs for executive bonus calculations.
  • To identify opportunities for innovation (sometimes based on areas of customer dissatisfaction)
  • To identify which customer touch points most directly predict loyalty behaviors (such as repeat purchasing and positive word of mouth); this creates a prioritized list of areas for improvement, optimized for the most impact.

What roadblocks will I likely encounter?

Short answer: a bunch. But the single most common issue is sample source. Do you really have a list of customers you can recruit to participate? Do you have other direct access to qualified customers? If you do, great. But a surprising number of companies do not.  I have worked with some really big clients, and some have had pitifully poor customer lists.  And since this is a customer sat project, you do need access to valid, qualified customers.

Here are 2 problems I have seen many times each:

  • B2B companies that realize their lists a) are out of date (more than 10% of the names/phone numbers/email addresses are incorrect) b) have bad contact info (the customer sat survey needs to be of people who use the product, but the list is comprised of purchasing agents who buy, but do not use). Result? Significant delays and budget overruns.
  • Consumer companies that overestimate the feasibility of using purchased lists to reach their customers. The result? Significant budget overruns.

Want More?

If you’d like a little more of an introduction to planning your first customer sat research project, please check out this 10 minute video on YouTube: Research Rockstar on YouTube.

Or, for a 53-minute, comprehensive introduction, check out this link to the Research Rockstar store: Store Link.

[Any questions or comments? Leave them here or call the blog requests line at 508.691.6004. Thanks!]

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