Monitoring Information on Customer Satisfaction

Clause 8.2.1 of ISO 9001:2000 requires monitoring of information about the customer’s perception of how well the organization has met the customer’s requirements. In addition, the organization must determine the methods for obtaining and using this information.

The second article in this newsletter interpreted the requirement. If we agree that determining customer satisfaction is more than reviewuating complaints, then what information is needed and how do organizations go about obtaining it?

Capturing the “voice of the customer” is an important business activity. Organizations need to systematically collect, record, and analyze data on the quality of their products and services as viewed by customers.

Studies have shown a strong relationship between customer satisfaction and financial performance. To ensure customer feedback is properly evaluated, organizations should identify the specific attributes that their customers believe are most critical, as well as, the relative importance of these attributes. We should ask the right questions to learn what customers think about our offerings.

Examples of attributes include ease of installation, reliability, efficiency, ease of maintenance, and durability. How do we go about obtaining information on these and other customer satisfaction attributes? Methods might include market surveys, focus groups, employee trip reports, customer questionnaires, product survey cards, post-transaction interviews, advisory groups, and of course, complaints, returns, and other customer feedback sources.

Competition

If you are going to ask customers about your product and services, wouldn’t it be nice to also know how they compare you to the competition? Your key customers may be “satisfied” with your performance, but “more satisfied” with your main competitor. Without this information, your organization may fail to take the appropriate actions. Sometimes customers help by issuing periodic supplier scorecards that indicate the performance of suppliers.

Loyalty

Acceptable levels of customer satisfaction do not guarantee acceptable sales and revenue. In some industries, 90% of customers report they are satisfied or very satisfied, but only a third of them actually buy again. To better understand the customer satisfaction data, you should investigate customer loyalty and their intention to purchase from you again. One study showed that reducing the customer defection rate to competition by 50% can increase profits by 25% to even 100%.

Analysis and Action

Clause 8.4 on Analysis of Data requires an organization to determine, collect, and analyze data to evaluate the improvement of the effectiveness of the quality management system. Customer satisfaction is listed as one of the key areas needing analysis.

The results of these measurements must be linked to the organization to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction. The results should be communicated to line management so they understand the feedback and take the appropriate actions.

Research on customer satisfaction can be expensive. Start simple. Identify the basic measurements. Include gathering information from customers as part of your planning cycle. You may be able to minimize costs by arranging for a local university to help design and conduct satisfaction surveys.

For further reading on this subject, see the article “Market Research for Quality in Small Business” by Rhey and Gryna in the January, 2001 issue of Quality Progress magazine.