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“Isn’t asking for someone’s opinion and then not doing anything substantial with it or not telling them what you are going to do following their input tantamount to not asking at all? Follow up and follow through seems to be where there is a real issue.”

Adrian Swinscoe, customer experience expert and Forbes contributor

Too often, organizations don’t know what they’re going to do with survey feedback before they conduct a survey. It’s like going on a road trip without a map. Like anything else, surveys need a well-defined purpose and thoughtful methodology to succeed.

Focus Your Approach

Every year, Enterprise sits at the top, or very near, the top of J.D. Power and Associates rankings for customer service among North American rental car companies.

The company uses a measurement called the Enterprise Service Quality Index, or ESQi, which “identifies the underlying attributes that will have the greatest effect on customer satisfaction for [their] organization.”

Some of the indicators on the ESQi are courtesy, professionalism, timeliness of service, ethical standards and core values.

How does Enterprise evaluate these criteria? Through phone surveys. But it’s not so much what’s in Enterprise’s surveys that’s so interesting as opposed to how they use them.

From the company:

“Every month, we measure customer satisfaction with each local branch through telephone surveys of hundreds of thousands of our customers. Each branch earns a ranking based on the percentage of its customers who say they were completely satisfied with their last Enterprise experience. We call that ranking ‘top box,’ and that’s the standard of excellence we set for ourselves when we work with our customers.”

Enterprise understands that blanket customer satisfaction surveys done across the entire organization with the results all jumbled together don’t do much for them. It’s too generic.

“Companies don’t measure profit at only the corporate level,” writes Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey in Forbes (authors of The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World). “They break it down by product line, geographic region and so on. Granular performance measurements enable teams to make better decisions and be accountable for results.”

Enterprise publishes ESQi results companywide to make the surveys a focal point for all customer service activities. They use the results to improve performance at their locations worldwide. This transparency allows everyone in the organization to see how they performed and where they rank in comparison to everyone else.

As a company dedicated to promoting from within, the ESQi score also functions as an important indicator for career advancement at Enterprise.

Be Decisive

According to customer service guru Stan Phelps, Enterprise first surveyed their customers in 1989, and the results were not good. Although founder Jack Taylor’s credo had always been, “Take care of your customers and employees first, and profits will soon follow,” reports of missed pick ups, dirty cars, and poor service did not reflect the company’s standards. The ESQi survey was implemented to make sure that the company met its own, and its customers’ expectations.

Enterprise also developed and instituted a practice called “The Vote,” where branch employees rank themselves and everyone on their team for their customer service, providing “constructive explanation of the rankings given.” Everyone on the team sees the results.

Is this practice more of a carrot or a stick for employees? The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) cautions that while that kind of approach may motivate employees, companies shouldn’t lose sight of behaviors as the goal rather than good survey results.

“Objectives should not include specific percentage increases on the next survey,” writes the MSPB. “The goal is to change organizational behaviors, not survey ratings. When survey ratings become the focus, the importance of changing behaviors is lost. Also, if ratings are the focus, executives and managers may try to take actions they believe will increase the ratings but that do not address underlying problems.”

Use the Data

In any case, survey results are only the beginning, a “tool for meaningful dialogue” within an organization, according to the MSPB. Actually using that data to enact positive change tells all stakeholders that managers and executives “value their input and respect their time.”

The internal, employee satisfaction survey is the quiet sibling to the customer service satisfaction survey; the George Harrison of the bunch, if you will. “When your organization conducts an employee survey, it is entering into a social contract with employees,” the MSPB writes of employee satisfaction surveys. “Feedback is exchanged for management consideration and action. When employees provide information, they expect that management will listen to their input and use the information to improve the organization.”

It’s true that different surveys target different populations, but the bottom line remains the same. Anyone who takes a survey expects the company administering it to respect their time and use the information accordingly.

“If survey data is not used, employees [or customers] are less likely to respond to future surveys,” writes the MSPB. “It will become increasingly difficult to obtain information from employees [or customers].”

Be Thoughtful and Purposeful

Enterprise knows exactly why they’re doing surveys and what they’re doing with the information gathered from them. From the beginning, they’re thoughtful and purposeful. This speaks to the need for companies to think through what the intent of a survey is, and decide how they will use those results before launching a survey. Investing that kind of time at the beginning will pay dividends by producing better results and better data.

Voice of the Customer

About   

Former Director of Communications at Plum Voice with 20 years experience writing primarily about technology and customer service, the customer experience, voice of the customer, market research and communications.

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