What Do Customers Really Think of You?

Posted: Updated:

Ask a business owner how her customers think about the services they receive or the products they use, and you’ll hear comments like "they love us." But when a third party asks those customers the same question, the results can be eye-opening.

I recently shared the story about developing a customer profile for a professional services firm that was eager to grow but lacked useful marketing intelligence about the business it was already handling. We helped them take an objective look at all of their clients to get a sense of how well that work matched the firm’s resources and revenue expectations.

Now that the firm had taken a look at the mirror, it was time to obtain some candid feedback by reaching out to their clients and discovering what they really thought of the firm. At first, some of the professionals resisted the idea, claiming they had already measured client satisfaction -- and they had, using a simple SurveyMonkey form that asked basic questions but provided little in the way of useful insight.

We told them they needed a deeper analysis and recommended a series of client interviews. The interviews would involve speaking directly to a cross-section of clients. They would be performed by our team with a promise of complete confidentiality. We wanted to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and knew that clients would open up more to a perceived third party than they would if their primary contact at the firm asked "How are we doing?"

The firm pulled together a long list of clients for us to speak with. We wanted plenty of names, because experience has taught us that a certain percentage won’t want to talk, whether that’s because they’re too busy or are uncomfortable offering candid feedback. However, we wound up speaking to enough people to hear consistent themes.

We asked everyone the same questions, and used their responses as a way to drill down more deeply, whether that was to clarify a response or explore an issue that appeared to be important to the particular client. Vague answers wouldn’t provide any benefit. For example, when asked about what they needed from the firm, nearly everyone said the firm should respond to requests in a timely manner. Well, what’s timely? Within the hour, the day, the week? The consensus was clearly that responding within 24 hours was important.

Interestingly, if a client mentioned a problem with the firm, it was usually shared in their answer to the first question. To us, that was a sign that the clients had wanted to share their dissatisfaction with someone but hadn’t been given an opportunity.    Many clients volunteered information beyond what we asked. We thought our conversation with one was nearing the end, and asked him if there was anything else he wanted to mention. Yes, as a matter of fact, there was. He talked so long that it took nine pages to transcribe his answer. This client who the firm assumed was thrilled with their services was actually furious.

We asked the clients about which of the firm’s competitors they also used. When we shared one of those names, the leadership team said, "They're not a competitor of ours." We responded that the client clearly views them as a competitor, because they see them as the go-to firm, and you as their second choice. The clients were only too happy to share why they liked those competitors, and the reasons were usually perceived shortcomings in the way the firm handled their business.

There were also surprising examples of how the firm managed to shoot itself in the foot. One client mentioned that during a meeting with a project team, he had expressed a desire that the firm step up its client service. One of the firm’s professionals responded, "Well, if you would do more business with us, we'd take better care of you." That may have been true, but it’s not something that should be verbalized, and it stunned the client. Clearly, the professional staff needed some basic customer service training.

We summarized the results and provided complete transcriptions of the client comments in a 135-page binder. Instead of providing a vague assessment, we were able to tell them exactly what their clients thought, backed by verbatim comments. That unvarnished truth may not have been easy to digest, but it gave them plenty of food for thought.

Deborah Daily is co-owner of Buckaroo Marketing | New Media.

  • Perspectives

    • Why HR Should Embrace AI

      With the increased introduction of artificial intelligence, many companies worry about its long-term effects. Although AI has been adopted by many industries, the common fear remains: Will AI eventually take over our jobs? Contrary to this belief, AI can be extremely beneficial in helping humans improve productivity at work,make their day-to-day tasks easier and allow more time for creative tasks only humans can perform. One department that can especially benefit from jumping on the...

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Fishers Among Finalists For National Prize

      The city of Fishers is one of 12 finalists for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The award honors "communities that are bringing partners together around a shared commitment to health, opportunity, and equity."

    • (photo courtesy of Howe Military Academy)

      Howe Military Academy to Close

      Howe Military Academy in LaGrange County has announced plans to close its doors after 135 years. In a letter posted on the academy's website, President Thomas Tate cited rising costs and declining in enrollment as reasons why the school will not reopen for the 2019-2020 academic year.

    • Greenwood CEO Named Small Business Person of the Year

      The chief executive officer of a Greenwood-based company has been named the 2019 Small Business Person of the Year for Indiana. U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon announced Monday this year's winners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. 

    • (photo courtesy of Subaru of Indiana Automotive)

      SIA Breaks Ground on Training Center

      Officials from Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette have broken ground on a new technical training center. The company says the 20,000-square-foot facility will double the size of its current training center. SIA did not say how much it is investing in the new facility. The technical training center will feature a simulated factor floor, up to six training robots, multiple assembly line simulators, classrooms, and a larger computer lab, among other amenities. 

    • Hanna believes crews could begin "turning dirt" in 2020.

      Hanna: South Shore Project Hits 'Major, Major Milestone'

      The president of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority says the South Shore Line West Lake Corridor project will create a crucial "Hoosier gateway in Chicago." The more than $700 million project has received a positive project rating from the Federal Transit Administration, putting it a step closer to up to $440 million in federal funding. Bill Hanna says the rail extension will help Hoosier workers connect to jobs in Chicago that often pay more...