Tag Archives: customer/supplier relationship

Increasing Customer Satisfaction

customer satisfaction

There are a variety of approaches to hearing the Voice of the Customer and using the information we gather to, hopefully, increase customer satisfaction.

While simply gathering this data guarantees nothing, it’s vitally important because we can know all there is to know about our internal processes and still not know enough about them to increase client satisfaction.

For this sort of challenge we need additional tools and methods, a few of which include:

Customer Surveys are a staple for measuring and possibly surfacing areas for improvement. A popular tool for measuring customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which typically takes the form of a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product, or a service to a friend or colleague on a scale of 0-10. “Promoters” are defined as those giving a 9 or 10 answer, and “Detractors” are those giving an answer of 6 or below. The NPS score is determined by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Studying variation in the NPS by area, customer type, and over time can help pinpoint trouble spots that are impacting customer satisfaction.

Analyzing customer Complaint Logs can help identify and address the problems that customers have identified and shared, but this is a bare minimum in the effort to increase customer satisfaction. The Complaint Log is a place to seek information about where we are falling short on what is often called “Must-Be Quality.”

The absence of the quality dissatisfies even though the presence in itself will not please the customers because it is assumed. Addressing gaps in the Must-Be Quality can lift one out of the hole, but will never lift customer satisfaction any further. To effectively increase customer satisfaction, we need to create and deliver work that will delight the customers.

One client described his method as the Ambassador Visit: “I go to meet with the customer, I say thank you for your business, and then I shut up. And listen.” Providing a good forum and opportunity for the customer to express what they like and don’t like is very useful.

What’s more, the Ambassador Visit provides a forum to discuss what the customers see coming down the road, so we can proactively anticipate and address their needs.

Another client finds tremendous value in visiting clients as they work with the product — meeting them in the field to watch, listen, and study the customer’s challenges and how the product currently helps them — and how it could help them if something were to be changed. This approach, sometimes called Contextual Inquiry, provides value in understanding what is truly working as expected for the customers and how we can solve problems for the customers that they did not even think to mention.

Whichever method one might use, the key is to keep communication flowing and to be proactive in continually improving processes and measuring the degree to which customers are delighted!

Improve Sales By Focusing On the Customer/Supplier Relationship

Satisfied and delighted customers are the lifeblood of any organization. Our professional lives are more rewarding when customers love what we do or provide for them.

Providing customers with the highest quality products and services at the best possible price starts with clearly understanding the customers’ needs and requirements and then designing and implementing processes that consistently deliver value. But there are two types of customers:
• external customers
• internal customers

It’s important to recognize that both types of customers are important and have needs that must be met. External customers are the people who pay for our products and services. As Dr. Deming said: “No customers, no orders, no jobs!”

Paying attention to the external customers’ requirements is essential and helps us keep the entire organization focused on doing value added work (i.e., “work the external customer would pay for if they know what we were doing”).

However, to effectively meet the external customers’ needs, we must also work with our internal customers. Understanding and meeting our internal customers’ needs and requirements helps the process of producing our product or service to flow smoothly, be problem-free and deliver the highest quality at the lowest total cost. When we work with our internal customers we are, in fact, “internal suppliers.”

Of course, this customer-supplier relationship extends to our external suppliers as well. From our external customer’s point of view, we are responsible for what they buy from us; and our suppliers are part of the system.

It is increasingly important to build strong customer/supplier partnerships that ensure that we get exactly what we need, in the right quantity, at the right price to be able to meet our external customers’ needs.

Studying Our Work to Improve…
If we’d like to increase sales by improving our “sales” process, we should begin by studying our work. As a first step, identify our top customers’ 3-5 “must-have” requirements. As requirements are identified, it helps to understand their relative importance. What requirements does the customer consider “musts” versus “wants?” The chart below might help with the analysis of identifying measures we must track to determine how well we are meeting customer requirements.

Studying Our Work

Keep in mind that customer requirements are constantly changing as well, and yesterday’s “wants” may become tomorrow’s “musts.” So, we must continually analyze (and improve!) our work – paying attention to both “internal” and “external” customers, as indicated by the “Deming Cycle.”