Customer Satisfaction Research

Winning customers' hearts and minds is increasingly important to customer acquisition and customer retention. It is no coincidence that customer satisfaction research accounts for much of market research activities.

As competitive advantage and differentiation is achieved through product innovation and service performance (rather than competing on cost), it is vital to monitor and manage customer satisfaction levels.

Customer satisfaction is not just about service levels or product attributes. It can be seen as a function of two main components:

Customer satisfaction is therefore concerned with service delivery/product performance and expectation management.

Expectation is usually a function of experience, however, expectations are also heavily influenced (or 'set') during the purchase process.

Satisfaction derived from high-service quality will be seriously negated, or even, completely destroyed, if expectations are not fulfilled.

Increasingly, it is not enough to meet expectations - high satisfaction can only be achieved by exceeding expectations. Today, the battle is for 'completely satisfied' and 'delighted' customers.

Small events can trigger disproportionately large changes in customer satisfaction; enquiry and complaint handling often fall into this category.

Customer satisfaction research delivers key benefits:

The starting point for many businesses, is to segment customers in terms of profitability (this can be an enlightening exercise!). Highest profit customers should be the most satisfied. It should not be forgotten that the demanding customers (customers who are difficult to satisfy) can be useful in testing and pushing forward service delivery standards.

Qualitative research has a big part to play. Customer definition of the differences between an average and an excellent supplier is an extremely useful research exercise to go through. Respondents 'idealising' service delivery identify 'satisfaction gaps' and new ways of achieving competitive advantage through product enhancement and service delivery.