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Beyond Customer Satisfaction

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Everyone's talking about "Customer Focus" "Delighting the Customer" and other variations on this theme nowadays. There are plenty of articles on the legendary services extended by Nordstrom department stores and Infiniti dealerships. And there are some very good companies conducting massive customer satisfaction studies (e.g. Opinion Research Crop. and J.D. Power) for major organizations with tens and even hundreds of thousands of customers.

Achieving a sustainable competitive advantage is more than merely satisfying existing customers (see "Why Satisfied Customers Defect," Jones and Sasser, Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec '95: "The gulf between satisfied customers and completely satisfied customers can swallow a business"). We agree. But, focusing solely on existing customers can leave mega gaps between your current and potential market share and a more favorable bottom line.

We've observed that the greatest enlightenment comes not from existing customers, but from lost customers, distribution channels, competitors (both direct and peripheral-now-but- emerging) and prospects.

How do you (or have us help you) get this information? After setting your objectives and identifying which groups hold the keys to your profitable growth:

  1. Develop a base questionnaire with modifications (or modules) for the different targeted groups;
  2. Design in frequent, qualitative, probing questions to reveal the real issues behind the numbers;
  3. Use skilled interviewers (please!!) for phone contacts (preferred for most industrial esearch...responses to open-ended questions and professional-level interactions elicit the most valuable information). How do you make sense out of the survey?
  4. Get on-going feedback and updates - unexpected responses may lead you to valuable new directions of questioning;
  5. Insist that negative information gets back to you within several hours so that you can set corrective wheels in motion right away;
  6. Value is in smart "slicing and dicing" of the responses, not the raw data or simplistic statistical analyses, which could be misleading ("The simple inherit folly...").

Technology Management Associates, Inc.
(312) 984-5050jogucwa@techmanage.com

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