If you’re an industrial business that has to comply with ISO 9001 or any other derivative of an international manufacturing standard such as TS 16949 for those supplying the automotive industry or maybe GMP for those supplying pharmaceuticals and healthcare, then running an annual customer satisfaction survey is a condition of doing business in your industry.
Any international manufacturing certification (such as ISO 9001, TS 16949 or GMP) requires regular customer satisfaction surveys and they also require that those survey results drive the improvements in the business. And it’s not just the ISO folks that require it. Companies who are applying for quality awards such as the Malcolm Baldridge Award also require a robust customer satisfaction survey process that yields results that actually improve the business system.
Criteria for a Valid Customer Satisfaction Survey for ISO Certification
Well — there isn’t any specific criteria. ISO 9001 won’t tell you HOW to do your customer satisfaction survey, but they will tell you what you should be able to do with the results:
- Determine how well you’ve performed with your customers
- Figure out what unmet needs your customers have that you can deliver
- Generate ideas for new products or services
- Identify new opportunities
The good news is that the standard has actually set some general objectives that you can use as a baseline or guideline to get you started. Your job would be to put some specifics behind those objectives.
WARNING – make your objectives as specific as possible. You can’t put an improvement team on the task to improve something general such as “overall satisfaction” if you don’t know what specific elements are behind that.
Creating Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions That Meet Objectives and Drive ISO Improvement Measures
The first objective is to Determine how well you’re meeting customers expectations. Simply asking the question as “Rate how well has (COMPANY X) meet your expectations– on a scale of 1-10. Will give you nothing but garbage. Say the results came back as having an average rating of 5.8 out of 10 in meeting your customer’s expectations. What changes would you put in place to increase that score? You don’t know because you didn’t ask that. You asked a general question about their expectations instead of a specific one.
The way to solve this problem is by using an Importance/Satisfaction style question. Create a list of attributes that are important to your customer (such as having a real person answer the phone) then have them rate how important that is to them and then have them rate their level of satisfaction with YOUR company.
And here’s a nice little twist you can do. Use the Loop function and ask them what other alternatives they use, and have them rate YOUR competitors’ performance as well.
These results are GOLDEN and will yield a chart that will show you exactly what’s important to your customer and to what degree you and the competition are meeting those expectations. Not only THAT, but it will also attack that other objectives of identifying new opportunities, finding unmet needs as well as generating new product and service ideas! All of that accomplished with just one series of questions.
Net Promoter Score is JUST as Relevant to Industrial Customers
Industrial consumers are people too. They are not robots, they speak, they send email, they hang on Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and use the same products and services that regular consumers do. Just because they work for an organization that sells heavy duty machinery or some kind of widget doesn’t mean that they leave their human-ness at the door.
That said — industrial purchasers actually talk to each other and refer the companies, products and services that they use. In fact, in my research I’ve discovered that many loyal supplier relationships are formed via referral. And if you’ve ever seen industrial web sites, you’d notice that search engine optimization and marketing savvy aren’t exactly what attracts customers — it’s word of mouth.
In every customer satisfaction survey that you do — include the Net Promoter Score question. “How likely are you to refer (COMPANY X) to a friend or a colleague?” Notice that I’ve adjusted the question to read “colleague” instead of family member . I did this because so many of my clients don’t like to use “family member” for industrial products. Of course, I disagree with this approach. I think that using the term “family member” actually connotes a certain level of goodwill. You would NEVER refer something to a friend or family member that you didn’t think was in their best interest. To me, it connotes a higher level of trust. But use your judgement and the phrase that works best for your industry.
A word of warning about NPS. Just because it’s called the “Ultimate Question” and is said to be the only question you’d ever need. Don’t use it alone — like other general questions, it doesn’t give anyone in your organizations any specifics to work on. It’s just an index for gaging improvement.