One of the most visible changes in the latest ISO quality management system requirements (ISO9000: 2000) is the focus on customer satisfaction. Consider this excerpt from the ISO introduction: “This International Standard promotes the adoption of a process approach when developing, implementing and improving the effectiveness of a quality management system to enhance customer satisfaction by meeting customer requirements.”
The new ISO model requires companies to focus on the customer, continuously monitoring customer perceptions and making customer satisfaction a key measure of the effectiveness of the quality management system. One aspect of ISO9000 that did not change is that ISO does not specify how to accomplish the requirements. This leaves the method totally up to you. If you are a PMPA member and search the Quality Listserve archives for “Quality Satisfaction,” you will see that there are several different approaches to this.
What To Ask. The first step is to determine what information you require to measure customer satisfaction. The list of potential questions is endless and will vary depending on the type of products you manufacture and the industries you serve. The bottom line is to select questions that are critical to the perceived quality of your product or service, be it product quality, delivery time, service, response time, and so on.
The Survey. How many surveys do you receive in the mail? Does the dollar bill paper clipped to the form prompt you to eagerly complete the questionnaire, or do you pocket the buck and toss the survey? According to a review of the Listserve archives, the response rate is generally low (less than 50 percent). However, the response rate can be greatly increased by getting the survey to the right person at the right time.
The Modified Survey. Response rates have been improved by a more direct surveying approach. Rather than simply faxing, mailing or e-mailing a survey, have your salespeople take the survey to the customer and interview that customer in person. The salesperson records the customer’s responses on the form and submits the completed form to the appropriate person back at the shop. This personal approach generally dictates that only the top 20 percent of your customers will be surveyed because of the time and cost required for the personal visits. Based on a Pareto analysis, it will generally follow that this will account for 80 percent of your total business and will be a reliable indicator of your overall measure of customer satisfaction. This approach can be varied for a direct sales force versus independent reps.
The Squeaky Wheel. Some customers rely on customer complaints, or lack thereof, to measure satisfaction.
The downfall of this approach is that many ISO auditors will be looking for an active approach to measuring customer satisfaction, as opposed to this passive approach. A passive approach that relies on customers to complain is not a robust method for detecting customer satisfaction. Passive methods are analogous to waiting until a machine breaks down before preventive maintenance is performed. It’s common knowledge that a disgruntled customer may not tell you about the problem until it’s too late, but they’ll probably tell several other people, including possibly your competition.
Customer Quality Reports. As a result of ISO requirements, many companies send quality and delivery reports to their suppliers. Some companies have used these customer reports as evidence of customer satisfaction. This is also a passive approach relying on the customer to initiate the communication.
Sales Call Reports. Call reports submitted by your sales force and reviewed by the appropriate individual in your organization can provide a source for anecdotal evidence of customer satisfaction. This is analogous to inspection by attributes for part features that cannot be empirically measured. This method is similar to the “modified survey” previously mentioned; however, there is a less formal structure to this method.
Measuring Customer Satisfaction. Don’t make the mistake of merely collecting the data and filing it without analysis. This will do nothing for your business and will not satisfy most auditors. The feedback needs to be reviewed to identify areas in your organization that require improvement. With the cost of getting new customers estimated at more than five times the cost of keeping an existing customer, it pays to keep your customers satisfied.
Plan, Do, Check, Act. As with any other element of your quality management system, use this feedback to identify areas for improvement. Your internal corrective action system is an excellent tool to track the actions taken to improve customer satisfaction. This will make certain that customer satisfaction is discussed in management review meetings. This is important because ISO specifies in Section 5 that “management shall ensure that customer requirements are determined and met with the aim of enhancing customer satisfaction.”
There is an old adage, “If you don’t take care of your customers, somebody else will.” Whether or not your company is ISO-certified or pursuing ISO certification, measuring customer satisfaction is good business.