Making good use of customer satisfaction surveys
Over the years, many of the companies that I have worked with have undertaken customer satisfaction surveys of their PLM / PDM systems, aiming to use the feedback to help improve the total solution offering (software as well as support). Although each had the same goal in mind, some carried out surveys and acted on the results with far greater success than others. Why?
Some of them ran the survey, received the results and then ignored any constructive criticism, burying their heads in the sand because the results didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. The risk here, other than wasting time and money invested in an eventually pointless exercise, is that companies’ existing methods were reinforced as being ‘perfect’, when in fact they were far from it. Any company continuing to use the same methods of working simply because they don’t like to hear them challenged is missing out on countless opportunities for improvement.
The obvious benefit of a customer survey is that you are given an insight into the minds of your most valuable critic – the customer. You gain a clear understanding of how they work and, more importantly, how you can use their feedback to help them work better. By ignoring customer feedback, you are ignoring not only a valuable and objective assessment of the way you engage with customers and the customer ‘experience’, but also the unique chance to learn about your customers and their business challenges.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given starting out (and one that those of you who know me will doubtless have heard me repeat many times) was the simple mantra, “the state of men’s minds are the facts”, meaning that regardless of how well you believe your business is doing, it’s the external impression that dictates how you are seen. Looking at your existing processes from that objective viewpoint, you may well find that you’re heading in completely the opposite direction to that of your customers.
I can’t overstate the importance of customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer base can have a profound impact on every aspect of your business, from earnings to bottom line profits. Customer satisfaction surveys measure and evaluate the attitudes, opinions and satisfaction levels of your customers and clients, allowing you to obtain and distill that all-important sense of how happy your customers are.
Running a rigorous customer satisfaction survey and properly analysing the results is an essential tool in product development and absolutely invaluable to any PLM business. Acting on the information you glean is the perfect way to ensure that your business is growing in the ways that matter to your customers and that you are able to deliver ultimate goals of exceptional customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention. Listening directly to your customers and making demonstrable improvements in the areas that count is the cornerstone of developing strong customer relationships.
Tailoring a customer survey will ensure that you receive the information that’s most useful to you. I would suggest including questions that will key you into some or all of the following:
. Overall customer satisfaction with your existing PLM solution
. How your customers feel about your product direction and your roadmap for the future
. Your customers’ key priorities
. How your customers really perceive your PLM brand
. Whether you were able to meet your customers’ expectations
. How satisfied they are with the customer support you offer
. How they feel about any PLM advisory boards or user groups you administer
. How interested they are in designing and developing new processes
Your customers are a fantastic resource when it comes to identifying important areas for improvement and, as the companies I mentioned that chose not to use their feedback, discovered, unless you listen, you stand a good chance of leaving it too late to change, missing those vital opportunities completely!
Please feel free to share your experience in assessing and selecting a PLM solution. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to your feedback.
Mark Harrop is a leading Apparel PLM expert with more than 34 years experience in the industry. Mark co-founded the Product Development Partnership Ltd, the team of experts behind WhichPLM.