Customer Satisfaction – Measuring Performance and Importance
(Part 2 of 4 – Customer Satisfaction Series)
There is tremendous value in understanding your current customer base. Knowing what they think about your company and how well your products and services align with their current and future requirements will focus the direction of your organization. Deeper insight will also enable you to grow your business with current customers, which is far easier than starting from ground zero.
Many companies rely on internal salespeople and marketers for insight into their customers. While helpful, customers reveal limited information to someone pursuing their business. Externally focused customer satisfaction studies are highly valuable, as they provide an in-depth customer needs assessment that evaluates your performance and value against customer requirements to determine alignment as well as identify performance gaps.
Performance by Attribute
Company performance is evaluated on pre-identified attributes categorized into multiple functional areas. Common B2B functional areas include: sales/application engineering, product performance, deliveries and shipments, customer support, technical support, price and value, and overall satisfaction. Specific attributes are evaluated by customers on a seven-point scale, from completely dissatisfied (1) to completely satisfied (7). A sample chart of average performance ratings is displayed in the chart below. This chart shows relative areas of strengths and weaknesses by individual attribute as well as by attribute category.
Although the company’s performance by attribute is a critical piece of information in improving overall customer satisfaction, there is still additional information needed to develop a complete picture. To gain a richer, more robust understanding of the situation, it is essential to determine the importance of each attribute in driving satisfaction. We do this by computing a correlation between each attribute and overall satisfaction. By correlating individual performance ratings to the corresponding satisfaction rating, the overall importance of each attribute can be calculated. Comparing performance and importance, a deep understanding of the company’s true position will emerge.
Performance Improvement Map
By plotting attributes on a grid framed by performance (horizontal dimension) and importance (vertical dimension) the true story of the company’s improvement needs will emerge. In the upper right-hand quadrant of the grid – or map – are attributes that are rated relatively high by customers and are important to them. We call these “market levers” because, more than other attributes, they are creating long-term positive satisfaction and loyalty.
There are other attributes where the company is performing well but are not evaluated as being quite as important, we call these “table stakes” because they define expected performance and are not key differentiators. Management can examine these areas of performance to see if 1) resources could be carefully shifted away to more important areas of performance, and 2) if the sales force could work to help customers realize the benefits they were actually reaping from these services.
The left side of the performance improvement map shows attributes rated relatively low – labelled improvement priorities or opportunities, depending on the level of importance to customers. Of particular interest are those attributes that are rated below average in performance and high in importance. This quadrant is labeled “Improvement Priorities.” The quadrant labels help to categorize attributes and clarify company performance.
Another area of focus is alignment – is the company performing well on things that matter most to customers? The Performance Improvement Map is a powerful tool to quickly categorize various functional and operational areas of the business and to identify areas that are out of alignment with customer expectations. But, it incorporates only two of four key dimensions of customer satisfaction. The third dimension is that of competitive performance which we will discuss in detail in our next blog.