Assembling a customer satisfaction picture

Most everyone wants to measure (and improve) customer satisfaction, but how?

First and foremost, if your organization is new to surveys and doing this in-house, start simple! The goal of any survey is better information for decision-making, and a modest quantity of information that you actually use is far more valuable than a complex picture that may be flawed or too troublesome to maintain.

For any business, there are probably several ways in which you interact with customers—the following example is for a B2B software company.

Facet 1: Ongoing contact

Short surveys on customer service/support are a great way to begin, because they're straightforward to write, conduct, and analyze. By short, I mean 3-5 rating questions, 1-3 demographics, and a comment field. While this won't be everything you want to know, it will include a few key satisfaction measures to highlight areas needing work and begin your trending. The comments are your catch-all for anything you didn't include on the survey, as well as providing the why behind rating values.

These are perpetual surveys, a link in the footer of every support ticket going to a customer, or a message sent on closing a ticket. The simplest way to manage them is with a generic link, but if you want to get more sophisticated you can embed information in the URL, such as a ticket ID (more at the end of this article). Typically ongoing surveys are revised periodically, but you want to keep at least a core steady so you can maintain the trending.

Facet 2: Key interactions

A software company will often provide installation or training services, which is an opportunity to touch base on that experience. In other industries, you may have similar events, such as when a consultant concludes a large project. In addition to providing aggregate data, these may be reviewed upon receipt so that poor experiences can be remedied.

Facet 3: Detailed periodic survey

The last piece—once you get the others up and running—is a detailed customer survey. Some companies do this annually, but for others it may make sense to run the survey at a milestone, such as before development begins on the next product generation. This will capture their satisfaction with specific features of your products and services, overall impression of your company, and where you can grow or shift to better serve their needs. Some of the questions will come from repeated themes in the other surveys' comments. The big survey is where you want to make an extra effort for the response rate, perhaps including an incentive.

Many strategies

The above is one approach. Some companies just do the big periodic survey, and not the ongoing feedback. Others will do the ongoing small surveys, but use an exploratory telephone interview for annual feedback instead of a quantitative survey. Be open to the best fit to your organization's information needs, customers, expertise, and budget. Customer service measurement is an ongoing function, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to refine your system over the years.


The customer service/support surveys are often very straightforward, making them well-suited to a low cost service provider.

There are two places where you'll start needing more power:

  • Cross-survey analysis. This includes trending as your simple survey evolves over time, as well as comparing results across the different facet surveys. You can manage this yourself by creating a master database, but there are software applications built for this type of work which can make your life easier, including some which will provide real-time dashboards.
  • Web survey enhancements. You can pass information into the surveys, such as technician, date, category, customer name etc. This adds detail without making the respondent provide it, saving them work and increasing accuracy. The detailed survey may also benefit from functions such as skips, piping, and pause/resume.

One strategy is to start with the simple software as you get acquainted with surveys. Then when you're ready to invest in a more sophisticated application, you'll be in a much better position to evaluate how the tools fit your needs.

1 Comment

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I’m new to your blog, but think you’ve got some good advice here. Your recommendation is especially useful for companies who haven’t done any customer satisfaction research, have very limited resources and are looking for a starting point in getting more specific customer feedback. My experience with these types of small surveys that cover a specific “key interaction” are that they work best when the focus of the questions is limited to feedback on that particular transaction or process though the eyes of the customers. There is usually not much time left to address more global perceptions if you only have 3 to 5 rating questions to work with and you’re trying to get a good handle on this specific process and how you can improve it. I agree with you that these types of surveys are best as a compliment to more comprehensive annual surveys that get feedback on how customers view a company overall and what aspects of their products and services are driving that perception.

Joe Forcillo
Forcillo Associates

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