Satisfaction or ‘Statisfaction’?

One of my esteemed colleagues recently sent a draft document to me that had a typo – satisfaction had been spelt with an extra ‘t’, making up a new word ‘statisfaction’.

That got me thinking!

I have been involved in numerous movements and initiatives to drive customer-focused business improvement for over 25 years – from Total Quality & Customer Satisfaction (CSat) through to Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ).

One thing that I have learned working with hundreds of companies across the world is that:

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE SCORE – IT’S ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS

Businesses like things quantified (there’s a perception that companies are run by accountants nowadays?), and on the whole I go along with the “what gets measured gets managed” mantra (see below), so I fully endorse customer experience and internal capability measurement.

I also like statistics! I’m intrigued by the fact that (as happened recently in a client) the average score of the Net Promoter question can go up but the NPS itself goes down! I love exploring how ‘the same’ internal capability score can be made up of completely different profiles of strength, weakness, consistency and impact across the organisation.

The first trouble with ‘the numbers’ (scores, averages, top-box, etc.) is that they DE-HUMANISE their source – our customers and how we manage their experience and value.

Yes, verbatims that are often included in the appendices of research reports and are summarised into frequency graphs of positive & negative sentiment (quantification again!), but I really wonder how many executives actually read every customer comment?

My point here is that customers are on a JOURNEY, and have a STORY to tell, but organisationally we’re only interested in a number.

My second problem with ‘the numbers’ is that hitting the score target can easily become the objective in itself rather than improving organisational capabilities. I have seen this lead to many counter-cultural, and indeed downright destructive, behaviours:

-Deselection of unhappy or difficult customers from surveys

-Writing new strategies instead of implementing the one you’ve got

-NPS begging – “please give me a 9 or 10 or I’ll get fired”

-Only ever addressing ‘quick wins’ – never the underlying systemic issues

-Blaming sample sizes and methodologies as an excuse for inactivity

-Blatant attempts to fix the scores (e.g. fabricated questionnaire completions, ‘evidence’ of capability that is in fact just a Powerpoint slide)

-Corporate tolerance of low-scorers – many companies seem content with the fact that large proportions of their customers hate them!

-Putting metrics into performance scorecards but with such a low weighting (vs. sales) that nobody really cares

-Improving “the process” instead of “the journey”

-No follow-up at a personal level because of research anonymity; or inconsistent follow-up if anonymity is waived – often only of low scorers treated as complainants – what about thanking those who compliment and asking for referrals from advocates?

I could go on, but I hope the point is made – beware of “what gets measured gets managed” becoming:

“WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS MANIPULATED”

So instead of targeting statistical scores, seek to find ways of improving your systemic capabilities to cost-effectively manage your customer experience – and then listen to what they’re saying to you about how satisfying it is.

By the way, your scores will improve too!

 

Peter Lavers is Deep-Insight’s UK MD. If you’d like to find out more about how NPS overcomes these issues, please contact Peter here.

Our Biggest Customer Is A Bully. Help!

In this month’s edition of Management Today there is an interesting article about bullying. No, not online bullying or workplace bullying, but B2Bullying.

B2Bullying is what happens when a (typically large) buyer makes continued unreasonable demands on a (typically small) supplier. In many cases, the buyer represents a significant proportion of the supplier’s business.

Here’s the scenario:

“Our biggest customer is a bully. It never pays us on time – every piece of work we do for it has to be followed by a flurry of emails and phone calls demanding payment – and the boss of the company is rude and arrogant. If I had my way, I’d tell them to shove it, but the work we do for them represents 35% of our sales. Help!”

Jeremy Bullmore, former chairman of J Walter Thompson, is the agony aunt who dispenses sound management advice about how to handle such a client.

Jeremy’s response (you can read it here) is solid and pragmatic, but it begs the wider question about what a typical or even excellent buyer-supplier relationship should look like.

Here’s our take on the subject.

In the business-to-business (B2B) world, long-term relationships are built on a foundation of mutual trust and cooperation. Academics talk about exchange theory (think of an exchange between two equal partners rather than a traditional buyer-seller model) and equity theory (the exchange has to be seen to be fair and equitable by both parties involved in the transaction. Indeed, a long-term relationship is based on a series of such fair and equitable exchanges.

That’s not to say that from time to time one or other party gets the short end of the stick on a particular transaction, but in the long run, it evens out and both parties feel pretty comfortable with a bit of give and take. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Or maybe more accurate: “You need to help me out this time but don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you.”

Upon such transactions are long-term relationships made. But if one party (often the larger party and typically the buyer) starts to B2Bully his way or continues to usurp his position of power, the relationship is doomed and will eventually fizzle out. What Jeremy is saying in his response – if you read between the lines – is that this is a one-sided arrangement and not a true partnership and that the supplier either lay down some ultimatums to the buyer if in a position to do so. If not, grin and bear it for the moment while working towards a dissolution of the so-called partnership when the timing is right.

On the other hand, an excellent buyer-supplier relationship is on that will stand the test of time and will be based on those principles of exchange and equity. You’ll recognise the signs. The parties in the relationship trust each other implicitly and are committed to helping each other. They collaborate on joint initiatives. They innovate together. They don’t wait for RFPs to be issued – they bring ideas to each other. They have an emotional bond that makes it extremely difficult for a competitor to get a look-in.

So, what’s the quality of your relationship with your top clients? If you’re unsure, why not contact us today and we’ll check out your Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) for you.

Peter Lavers is Deep-Insight’s UK MD.