Case Study: Customer Satisfaction Research
A supplier in the utilities and telecoms market wants to measure the satisfaction of its customers across a range of issues and develop an action plan for improving customer satisfaction.
The accuracy of a random quantitative sample depends on the absolute sample size, rather than the proportion of the overall population that the sample represents. Our Client provided us with a database of its 20,000-strong customer base, and we interviewed a cross-section of these customers through 500 interviews. This would ensure a result that was within 4.5% of what would be achieved if we interviewed all 20,000 customers, and left us with sufficient scope to break the sample down into sub-sections (e.g. small, medium and large customers) and analyse those sub-sections individually.
In order to ensure randomness of sample, interviews that could easily be monitored to industry standards, and (perhaps most importantly) a cost-effective project, the interviews would be carried out via CATI (computer-aided telephone interviewing).
Step 1 – Developing the Questionnaire
The development of the questionnaire is the first and vitally crucial stage. We carried out 20 tele-depth interviews with some of our Clients customers so that we were sure we had all the issues of importance and also to gather the correct jargon on how the market spoke so as to phrase all the different lines of questioning correctly. We then worked closely with our Client in the development of the questionnaire, ensuring that all of the key issues were covered within the framework of a questionnaire that was concise enough to maintain the interest of the target audience (buyers of the utility/telecommunications services).
Step 2 – Fieldwork
A cross-section of our Client’s customer base was interviewed by telephone from our International Fieldwork Centre. Respondents were screened to ensure that they were the person responsible for purchasing the utility/telecommunications service in question, and that they did indeed buy this service from our Client (it is surprising how quickly even the best-kept customer databases become out-of-date!).
The questionnaire contained a mixture of closed questions designed to achieve measures of different aspects of our Client’s products and services, backed up by in-depth open-ended questioning, designed to put ‘meat on the bones’. For example, if respondents gave our Client a particularly high or particularly low score on an issue, they were asked why they gave that score. This would ensure findings on which firm decisions could be made.
Where customers also had experience of our Client’s competitors, they were asked to rate their competitors as well as our Client, in order that direct comparisons could be made.
The decision-making unit was more complex than our Client had envisaged
Contrary to our Client’s beliefs, there were up to 5 people per company involved in the decision to buy their service. This varied from a technically-focused employee using the service on a daily basis, through to the Purchasing and Finance departments that assessed cost issues, as well as the Marketing department, which had occasional involvement with the service but whose views had to be considered in the decision to purchase.
Our Client was seen as strong on product quality, technical service and speed of delivery
Each of these reasons were seen as key reasons for choosing our Client in the first instance, important factors in the decision to stay with this Client, and areas where our Client had a strong advantage over the competition
Performance on price, invoicing and quality of marketing materials was seen as poor
In stark contrast to its performance on quality, technical service and speed of delivery, our Client’s performance on these issues was seen as extremely poor. 10% of the customer base was seriously considering changing suppliers because of these factors, and all but 2 competitors performed better than our Client.
Customer loyalty is decreasing
The target market was seen to be increasingly likely to change suppliers. Overall performance across the market is improving, meaning that performance is better than before. Most respondents keep 3 suppliers ‘on the go’ at once, whereas 5 years ago they would have a maximum of 2 suppliers, with one of those only used very occasionally.
Towards an action plan - satisfaction in the context of performance
Using statistical correlation analysis, the issues with most impact on overall satisfaction were revealed. Some issues, such as invoicing and product quality, are critical to get right as they greatly affect the market’s overall satisfaction with the supplier. Others, such as speed of delivery, are slightly less critical as they impact less on the overall satisfaction with the supplier.
In order to provide our Client with an action plan, the importance of all the various issues covered by the study were plotted on an axis against the market’s satisfaction with those issues. Using this type of reporting matrix attributes actions from the survey so priority areas for improvement are quickly highlighted (high importance but low current satisfaction) and resources can be assigned for immediate execution.
Of course, customer satisfaction studies only give a ‘snapshot’ of current market conditions and shifting patterns of satisfaction occur over time. Therefore, the study was devised for our Client to repeat the study on an annual basis in order to track satisfaction changes in the future.