Last month, I wrote about recipes for success and recipes for disaster. The first one, I wrote, results in happy customers, and the second one probably results in the exact opposite. That raises this question: How do you know that you have happy customers?
The answer is really pretty simple. You ask them! You do not assume that they’re happy with the quality or service that they’re getting from you. It’s a little crude, perhaps, but it’s often true that to assume makes an ass out of u and me.
OK, so how do you go about asking them? I questioned a group of printers and got some interesting answers.
“We send a comment card out with every order,” one printer told me.
“How many responses do you get?” I asked.
“I don’t really know,” he answered. “Five or six a month, I guess.”
“How many orders do you produce each month?” I asked next.
“We average about $60,000 per month, and our average order is around $250. What would that be?”
The answer – assuming that both the volume and average order figures are accurate – would be approximately 240 orders per month, which means that five or six responses would represent a 2-3% response rate. Do you really think it’s wise to base your perception of customer satisfaction on a 2-3% statistical sample? Beyond that…
“Who do the five to six responses come from, your best customers or new or more occasional customers?”
“I have to say they’re not my top customers.”
I’d have to say that sounds like one of those recipes for disaster – or at the very least, a customer satisfaction measurement program that’s not doing what it’s intended to do. I hope you’ll agree that you need more than a comment card program to ensure that your critical customer relationships are in good enough shape.
Another one of the printers I spoke to uses a modern variation of the comment card strategy. “We send an email out after every order, with a link to a Survey Monkey page. We ask them to rate our performance against several criteria, and it works really well.”
Again, I asked about the response rate, and again, the printer could only give me a rough estimate – which indicated a 4-5% response rate, with most of those responses coming from other than his top customers. So I submit to you that the modern version of comment cards may generate twice the response rate, but it’s still not a large enough statistical sample, and it still doesn’t tell you what you need to know about your most important customers.
By the way, before I go any further with today’s main issue, let me just say that things like this are measurable, and you should measure them! Response rates and demographics and average order size are necessary knowledge. The more you know about your business, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to improve it. Sadly, too many printers are really just along for the ride.
If I were you, I would take the temperature of my customer relationships on a regular basis. It’s probably too much to ask about their satisfaction with every order. In fact, that’s one of the reasons for such low response with comment cards. But it should certainly be easy enough to ask your “A” customers to quantify their level of satisfaction with you every month, and your “B” customers once every quarter. Actually, I’d like to see you talking to your “C” customers on a quarterly basis too, but that might not provide enough of a return on investment in terms of the time it would take to accomplish. So how about this, let’s add your “B+” customers to the every month list, and your “C+” customers to the quarterly list – with the “+” indicating next-level growth potential, or any other reason a particular customer might be more important to you than their current sales volume indicates.
Now, here comes the most important part of this strategy. Don’t send me any forms to fill out! Meet with me personally, or call me on the phone, or send me a direct email, and ask me just one question: “What’s the temperature of our relationship these days?”