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A company’s ability to achieve consistent performance depends upon its ability to win repeat business from its customer and protecting existing engagements. The cornerstone of both points is meeting and exceeding customer expectations over and over again. Customer satisfaction survey is one of the tools in measuring the probability of repeat business and the ability to protect current business. Over and above, often, new business comes through recommendations of ones customer contacts. This examines the practice of conducting a customer satisfaction survey and highlights the importance of it.

When a deal is signed, the customer does so with some expectations, expectations in terms of the quality and timeliness of the deliverables. The service experience is also a normal expectation that the customer has. Customer satisfaction survey works as a feedback mechanism. Herein, at the end of a project or at regular periods, the supplier solicits feedback from the customer. Feedback thus received is carefully analyzed, and actions taken where necessary. To bring the interaction to a logical conclusion, the supplier goes back to the customer and updates him on the actions taken. Such a conduct by a supplier done in full earnest wins the trust and confidence of the customer, which in turn translates to more business.

Customer satisfaction survey is usually designed by the quality assurance group of the organization. The survey asks unambiguous leading questions that enable assessment of different parameters of the product or service provided. To name a few such parameters:

- Quality of deliverables 
- Timeliness or adherence to committed schedules 
- Response time and response quality to queries posed by customer 
- Quality of infrastructure support made available to customer 
- Overall experience

Such ‘compartmentalization’ allows the organization to clearly understand where its shortcomings lie and take necessary actions to alleviate them. Questions leading to each of the above parameters lead to a point based evaluation system. For instance, “Please rate the quality of deliverables on a scale of 1 to 5”. It is also a common practice to allow the respondent to express his thoughts, for instance by posing questions such as: What were the good practices done by us, What do you think are the areas of improvement, etc.

The next step involves identification of the respondents from customer’s side. Care should be taken to identify the correct person such that fair and honest feedback is obtained. It is often desirable to involve a senior management respondent from the customer’s organization. The senior manger brings in the ‘bigger picture’ which the mid-level management are likely to skip.

Before sending out the customer satisfaction survey form, it is important to communicate to the customer the intentions. This not only rules out possible ambiguities, but also helps in reinforcing the message that the supplier values the customer’s feedback. Normally, the survey is preceded by a note requesting for feedback. In case where one of the respondents is from senior management, it would be a good practice that the relationship manager calls and updates personally on the background of the survey. In many cases follow up is important to ensure that the feedback is given by the customer.

In organizations with mature processes, it is common to conduct annual customer satisfaction surveys, collate the results of the same and compare how the company has performed vis-à-vis the previous year. The customer satisfaction survey can also serve as an indicator of the protagonists and antagonists in the customer organization.

Customer satisfaction survey is a valuable tool that serves as a reality check. While one might believe that the customer was happy with the deliverables, he might be missing out on some of the key grievances of the customer.

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