Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The importance of measuring customer satisfaction

Every organization has internal and external customers. Organizations that have adopted the
total quality management (TQM) philosophy, understands that customers have needs that have to be met. A company can ask customers to rate them against competitors, measure employee knowledge, attitudes, and expectations, or even monitor company performance against industry benchmark standards. An organization needs to check the pulse of their customers often, to make sure needs have been met. This measurement can be achieved through surveys.


Surveys provide a quick, inexpensive, efficient and accurate means of assessing information about customers. When surveys are properly conducted, the data becomes extremely valuable to managers. Surveys can be given in a written or spoken way. They can be handed, mailed or given over the phone to respondents. 

Surveys, in my opinion, are easy to create; you don’t have to be a rocket scientist! You can hire a vendor to create and execute a survey for your organization, or you can use a free service called SurveyMonkey. The most common type of survey is a Likert Scale survey. The format of a Likert Scale is when you ask a respondent if they: (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) neither agree or disagree, (4) agree, or (5) strongly agree. Check out some survey samples here. When creating a survey, the following should be considered:

For a product, you may want to know:
Performance, features, reliability, durability, serviceability

For a service, you may want to know:
Access, communication, competence, courtesy, reliability, credibility

Every organization should have a benchmark standard that is followed. The purpose of benchmarking is to be sure problems and desires have been identified. Once an initial survey is sent out and data is tabulated in an Excel spreadsheet, then a firm can measure if customer satisfaction is increasing or decreasing. The number of times your organization should measure is up to you. Remember the number of resources, both money and people, it takes to execute and tabulate data. Follow your work plans goals. Perhaps surveys should be yearly, bi-yearly or even quarterly. 

Do's and Don'ts

Do create the survey to have a written comment box.
Do have management reward good performance!
Do make sure the each question has a “don’t know” box.
Do make sure you use common words.
Do make sure contact information is optional.
Do provide incentives to increase the response rate (drawing for a gift card).
Do make sure the survey includes instructions.
Do make sure the survey gives respondents the purpose of the survey, and how the data will be used.
Do make sure the survey is courteous; use the words please and thank you.

Don’t ever send out a brand new survey without testing it first! Give it to friends, family or even a sample group of customers.
Don’t expect to receive 100 percent of response rates.
Don’t forget that surveys are supposed to be anonymous!

A customer has many touch points when working with a company. Make sure that each department has a benchmark for customer satisfaction standards and measure often. This is the only way you can know if an area needs improvement. The truth hurts, but don’t let that stop you from providing a great product or service offering. Remember, a happy customer is your walking advertisement and testimonial.

Until next time…

Shallon Hagen is the Director of Marketing for two Ford dealerships, and is responsible for marketing, communication, promotional and public relation strategies campaigns. She has more than 12 years of experience in customer service, sales and marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing Management with magna cum laude honors. She is a freelance writer and graphic designer. You can reach her at shallon.hagen@gmail.com or connect on LinkedIn.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Acquisition Rules for the New Marketer

In the past week, three of my clients have told me about an acquisition that their organization was making.  Apparently, this is a good market to add scope and resources, since the some of the industry leaders are turning around and looking to improve their short and long-term profits by buying some of the competition.

Would you believe that customer data never came up during the acquisition discussions for any of these clients at all?  Yet a seamless customer experience has a critical assumption to the valuation of the acquired company?

What were they thinking?  Did they think that customer delight and retention simply occurs by magic?

After all, the value of a company is really the projected future value of cash flows that come from customers, right? 

If that is true, how in the world can a company not be concerned about how they will market to newly acquired customers?

Yet, this situation frequently occurs.  Companies evaluate a lot of factors during due diligence, but synergies in marketing are rarely considered.  And we marketers are left to pick up the mess.  But no pity party here – remember, we practice No Excuses Marketing around our place.  Pick up the pieces and get going – we have customer relationships to save and a revenue target to make and no time to waste!

What are the first three things you need to do after your company completes an acquisition?  Here you go:

1.  Figure out the rules of the road.  Many times during an acquisition, promises are made to the existing marketing department about keeping the old brand for some time, retaining the existing marketing department, etc.  It is critical that you find out what those deals are; often they are verbal ones during the agreement, so you have to talk to the people involved in the deal to make sure. 

The early days of a new relationship are critical, and you must be sure to get off on the right foot.  No matter what, you want customers to experience a smooth transition.  In these days of social media, you have to make sure employees are comfortable, if not happy, to prevent a backlash that you do not want to deal with.

2.  Inventory your assets.  Before you get going, make sure you know what you have.  This inventory includes people, creative assets, relationships, and most importantly, customer data.  Keep a running tab of what you have, what you are missing and what you don’t know about yet.  Pay particular attention to assets that impact the customer experience of your newly acquired customers.  You can always mock up a new logo, but losing information about when your best customers last purchased – that is an issue.  Be patient – at the start, you will know far less than you don’t – but keep plugging away.

For the customer database – look to see if you can find “RFM” – when your newly acquired customers last purchased, what they purchased, how much they spent and how long it has been since they returned.  That information is enough to get started.

3.  Focus on relationship building.  The temptation (and pressure from management) will be to start making money off the newly acquired customers, but let me urge you to focus on relationships at the start more than short-term profit.  Relationships are like investments – make deposits early on, and you can reap rewards for years to come.  Remember, these customers know about the acquisition, and they don’t know you.  First impressions are hard to overcome, so make yours about the brand, values, people and service.  Then provide reasons for customers to come back and get to know about you.  Tell them about the benefits of the acquisition and then make sure to highlight those benefits in future communications. 

Acquisitions are delicate times with high pressure.  Pressure to make money from acquisition can lead to decisions that you will regret in years to come.  Many acquisitions fail to yield anticipated returns due to culture issues between employees and, as importantly, due to a gap in customer experience during the transition that leads to a decline in customer retention.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Work early with management to share the risks and show the plan you have to grow profits through relationships.

Then you will find yourself “ruling the acquisition” and not the other way around!

Mark Price is Managing Partner of M Squared Group, a consulting firm focused on understanding and building customer relationships, and the author of the blog “Cultivating Your Customers,” where he writes about practical approaches to improve customer retention and overall customer value.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Entering the Field of Marketing as a Career Changer

I consider myself to be a career changer.  From 1996 – 2007, I worked as a Research Project Manager at the University of Minnesota where I directed the research-related activities for a study on children with behavior disorders.  There were many aspects of my job that I liked, but I was searching for something more.  I decided to pursue an advanced degree and switch gears into marketing/market research.  In 2005, I began the MBA program at the Carlson School of Management.  When I applied for the program, many of my friends and family were surprised.  They told me, “You don’t know anything about business or marketing.”  I thought, “Isn’t that the point of going back to school?”  At the same time, I understood their concerns because I worried that I would be overwhelmed with concepts and information that I had never been exposed to before while my peers already working in marketing positions would excel.

At the Carlson School of Management, I took classes that focused on marketing and market research as well as classes in other concentrations such as finance and operations.  We read case studies and had class discussions about current issues in the business world and how they related to our coursework.  I loved hearing stories from my peers about their companies and was eager to graduate and move into a market-related position in the corporate world.

While I attended classes, I joined the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about different marketing roles so I volunteered on several different committees.  I joined the MarCom Committee and volunteered to assist with the 2009 Annual Conference.  In the process, I learned more about market research, graphic design, creative writing, and social media.  I attended as many AMA events as possible including an AMA sponsored “Marketing Bootcamp”.

Today, I continue to attend AMA events, volunteer on the MarCom Committee, and was recently elected to the MN AMA Board of Directors.  I love networking with fellow marketers and learning about the various marketing roles and companies in this field.  I read electronic newsletters with information about companies in the consumer packaged goods industry and subscribe to Bloomberg’s Business Week and some Marketing magazines that I selected with my AMA membership. In addition, I take advantage of some self-paced learning modules on my employee website to brush up on skills needed for my specific position and industry.

How about you?
  • Are you a career changer?  How did you make the switch into marketing?
  • How do you keep current on marketing-related information?
  • What is your involvement in the AMA?  What do you hope to get out of your participation?

Barrie Berquist is a Category Development Manager at Acosta Sales and Marketing.  She has been a member of the MN AMA since 2007 and is a member of the MarCom Committee where she serves as the Career Insider Blog Project Manager.  She can be reached at barrieberquist@yahoo.com.  You can follow Barrie on Twitter @BEBERQUIST. 
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kick Your Career Engine into High Gear by Joining the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association

If you are not yet a member of the MN AMA, now is the perfect time to join!

Connecting. Informing. Advancing.  The MN AMA provides the fuel you need to win.

Between now and May 31st, we are holding our annual Spring Membership Drive, where you can get freebies and discounts only offered during certain times of the year!

Currently, you receive:
  • A complimentary registration fee - $30 value!
  • Your choice of:
    • A $20 Amazon gift card OR 
    •  A $200 coupon redeemable at any AMA national conference
  • Also, if you join during the Spring Membership Drive AND attend our June New Member Orientation, you'll receive free gifts and have the chance to win gift certificates. 
  • Attendees at the June New Member Orientation will also have the opportunity to bring along a gues for free.
Plus, as a member, you'll save between $15-$35 off of each additional educational, training and networking event.  Plus, you'll enjoy the ability to build your network with hundreds of local, talented marketing professionals.  

Check out our member benefits for more information or ask members directly on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter!  

Visit www.marketingpower.com or call 1.800.AMA.1150 to join. 

But don't wait - the 2011 Spring Membership Drive ends on May 31st!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

QR Codes: The mood ring of the new millennium?

Remember mood rings?  Put them on and supposedly they would reflect whatever mood you were feeling by the heat you generated.

While QR codes (or Quick Response two-dimensional bar codes that can be read by a smartphone-based code scanner) aren’t new, we are just beginning to see the range of application they can have in marketing and capturing customer experience.   Here is an interesting example.

Our local friends at Best Buy are currently experimenting with QR codes as a way to tap into attitudes.  Imagine walking by a poster with a simple choice – it’s a good day today or it’s not.  Whip out your smartphone, take a quick shot and in a moment you find out what percent of X people responded that way today.  Since there are other posters hanging around the building, you also find out which location has the highest percentage of ‘thumbs up’ ratings.

“So what?”, you may be thinking.  Here is ‘the what’….

1.     While there are many other ways to get the data, this one has novelty and may capture your attention, just because it is different.  

2.     By raising awareness of this application, you likely elevate recognition of QR codes in other sites and applications.  I start to take greater notice of QR codes in my environment, which I might have otherwise ignored.

3.     Most exciting for marketers is the potential buzz it can create inside retail settings.  Maybe I’m in Best Buy and I rate some product; when I see the average rating I also notice that another product has an outstanding high percentage of thumbs up ratings.  It’s in the store, so I walk over to see why.

A smartphone-based mood ring that can drive customer behavior?  Maybe someday, but for now, hats off to the folks at Best Buy for their spirit of innovation and experimentation.

Don’t judge technology by what it can’t do today until you first imagine what it might allow you to do tomorrow.

Where have you seen marketing innovation using QR codes? 

Marc Sokol is an organizational psychologist with an eye for how people and teams can be more effective, even in a dysfunctional company. He is part oM Squared Group, a data-driven marketing consultancy.   
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