The term “audit” may send shivers down the spine of many adults, especially during the first quarter of every year. But that term can also be an organization’s best friend, especially when it comes to understanding the level of satisfaction your customers have with your organization. Leading companies with a reputation of providing an exceptional customer experience would agree that outstanding customer service is not just the responsibility of the customer service team. In fact, customer service is the responsibility of everyone, from top senior executives to the summer intern. Unfortunately, this is not the belief or practice in every organization. For any organization struggling with symptoms of subpar customer service, a customer satisfaction audit might be just what the doctor ordered.
Why and audit?
Because customer satisfaction can be one of the most – if not the most – important factors in the success of an organization, properly measuring it is critical. If not regularly measured, an organization could be missing some obvious reasons why sales are flat or why their percentage of repeat customers is alarmingly below the industry average. Some organizations believe that a focus on revenue is the cure all for what ails them. While a short-term boost in revenue can address a symptom, the root cause may still fester. Revenue improvement usually does not lead to improved customer satisfaction, but improved customer satisfaction will always lead to improved revenue.
Every organization will say customer satisfaction is important but saying something about it and doing something about are two different things. If an audit finds that customer service and the resulting customer satisfaction is optimized, then investigating other areas of the company for possible improvement is warranted. But, if an audit has never been done and there is a belief that potential revenue is not being realized, that’s akin to having multiple physical ailments but never going to the doctor of a physical or series of tests.
What does an audit look like?
Similar to a financial audit, a customer satisfaction audit should be able to isolate issues where there are gaps in providing what customers want and how they want it. Asking questions or areas of focus can include the following:
- Does the organization understand its customers’ needs?
- How effective is the organization in meeting the needs of its customers?
- What are the specific customer touchpoints during the buying cycle?
- How important is each touchpoint or how is each one weighed in relation to its importance?
- What are the outcomes associated with each touchpoint and how should they be scored?
- What are the criteria for measuring each outcome?
- Who measures each outcome?
- What scoring system will be used to benchmark the results of our measurement?
- How is our score used to determine the satisfaction levels of our customers?
- Are there events that trigger special contact with customers? If so, what are they and how do they impact the measurement score?
Each of these questions can result in a score designed to shed light on whether customer satisfaction activities are resulting in poor performance, satisfactory performance or exceptional performance. This should also be done regularly, either quarterly or annually.
Analyzing the outcomes
As data is collected and analyzed, an assessment can be made whether the company meets, exceeds or falls short of industry standards regarding customer satisfaction. In addition, an audit will help isolate where are the underperforming components are within the buying cycle, making it easier to implement initiatives designed to resolve them.
Who can help with an audit?
An audit can be completed in-house, but only if members of the staff have the capability and knowledge of doing such work. Leveraging the expertise of a third-party resource with no bias and industry expertise is the preferred method. Partnering with an outside entity that has a track record across multiple companies and industries will provide the unvarnished truth your company needs. Such partners have access to a wealth of knowledge and leading practice capability that will maximize the effectiveness of an audit and recommend post audit steps.
Ultimately, a customer satisfaction audit should reveal where your organization is in terms of understanding and fulfilling customer needs. Steps can then be taken to incorporate leading practice initiatives designed to fill gaps and reach the desired level of customer satisfaction that should lead to long-term revenue enhancement. While this process may not always appear to be fun, missing revenue targets and alienating valued customers is worse.