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Many companies realise customer feedback is vital but don’t know where to start or what type of survey is best. Should they do an in-depth face to face analysis or should they just do a mail shot?

Many factors must be considered when determining how to assess your customers’ perception of you. For example are your customers other businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C)? Do you interact with them regularly or on an ad hoc basis? How important are they to your business? What is their long term potential and what has their interaction been with you over the last year – increasing or decreasing?

You also need to look internally into your company. Which departments are the most affected by your customers? Who owns the customer, sales or support? What are you going to do with the results? How will different departments react to the results? Is there cohesion and commitment between departments on the importance of acting on the results? Do you have top management support to do something with the results? If you are doing none of the above then why bother with the survey?

Finally you need to look at the customer; how are you going to feed the results back to your customers? Remember customers participate in surveys because they want to see improvement. If you don’t acknowledge their effort and do something about it, their resentment at being taken for granted could make them look elsewhere.

As to what type of survey and who to interview, I have found Gartner’s model is an easy and intuitive one.


The model works on three tiers of a pyramid. The top tier is strategic aimed at your key customers. The interviews are open ended allowing the customer leeway to discuss a broad band of issues. The second tier is customer satisfaction at certain milestones like at the end of a project or after a complaint has been resolved. You ask all your customers a standard set of questions to ensure your goals and their satisfaction are aligned. The third tier is the point of delivery or moments of truth to find out if the customer experience or the customer’s emotion after the experience is positive. This is only one or two short easy questions enabling you to map the customer experiences to determine strong and weak areas.


The top level looks at key customers. This survey is strategic and outputs of this survey will influence your strategic direction and will dictate customer interaction. The content of the survey is guided not dictated; you ask few questions and allow your customer to do most of the talking. Allow the customer to state what they want and don’t try and pigeon hole their answers into your company structures. These interviews are best conducted face to face so the interviewer can pick up on subtle cues in body language, tone or inflection to be able to ask more probing questions. To remove bias, the interviewer should be external to the company, or at least someone far removed from any department that interacts with customers.

Customers to interview are those customers you cannot afford to lose, or customers where they deal only with you and you want to keep your competitors out, or customers where your wallet share is low and you want to increase it, or customers whose revenue streams are declining (they are obviously trying out a competitor).

Our product called “Customer Relationship Auditing” will help here. We ask our client’s customers only one question – “What do you want from your ideal supplier?” We brainstorm statements, and then determine how well our client is meeting their customers’ needs. This process allows the customer to dictate what they want and highlights gaps our client has to close if they want to stay competitive.


The next level down is a survey conducted after a strategic milestone in your service delivery so you can determine how your service delivery’s effectiveness and consistency.

Milestones are usually after a lot of interaction between you and your client or after a complex set of steps both parties have completed. Examples include post purchases, or 3 months prior to or after contract renewals, or post product installation, or post service problem resolution.

The questions here are more specific asking satisfaction levels for certain tasks or whether certain tasks were done and if so how well were they done. The questionnaire should be as short as possible; the optimum is around 10 questions.

The questionnaire can be done online, telephonically or by email, each have their advantages and costs, e.g. telephonically is more expensive but the response rate is higher.


The third tier is aimed at the moments of truth or the customer experiences. This measures your customers’ emotional satisfaction as well as how well the experience was delivered. Emotions must not be ignored, they can influence up to 70% or more of the buyer’s decision making.

This measurement is conducted whenever customers “touch” your company like the call centre or a purchase or interaction with your company or some form of staff intervention. This information will enable you to create a customer experience map to determine which experiences are working and which need work. You can also compare different departments, stores, agents, or teams and use this knowledge to improve weak areas or people.

The questions here is only one or two at the most asking them what they thought of the experience on a scale. You can use Net Promoter Score or simple averages, both are effective. The questions are best sent by email asking the person to respond in the email itself.

As there are only one or two questions, you should phone customers who gave a bad score to find out why. This enables the customer to vent their frustration on you rather than their colleagues and your potential customers. It also gives you an opportunity to rectify the situation there and then.

Our answer to this is our product “Customer Experience Auditing” a secure web based tool that automatically sends emails to your customers after they interact with your company asking them to rate that experience on a scale from 0 to 10. The emails are customised for that experience and you can put your logo into the email. The emails are sent the next day after the experience or sooner to increase the response rate. The responses allow you to create customer experience maps and to determine weak processes, people, or departments in your company to be fixed.

Douglas MacGregor

Customer Relationship Auditing

“Building superior business relationships through client intelligence”

+27 (11) 805-3588 (direct)

+27 (82) 414-9394 (cell)