More and more organizations are becoming aware of the necessity of internal customer satisfaction surveys for improving services. Some organizations gauge this every year, others continuously. Which measurement approach is right for your situation?
As a supporting department, serving the organization is your main goal. Your services are focused on providing the best possible support for employees or internal customers. Customer feedback is essential for achieving this. Internal customer satisfaction measurements are used to discover how services are experienced. But how do you go about this? Periodic or continuous measurements are popular choices.
A periodic measurement means that a survey is sent to the entire customer base, usually on an annual basis. Such measurements are ideal for gauging the services in broad terms. All main aspects are included in the questionnaire.
SERVQUAL, a quality management framework, is a commonly used research model to cover all these aspects. SERVQUAL divides the services into ﬁve dimensions (reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and responsiveness). Your customer receives a number of propositions for each dimension, asking about their experience. Moreover, your customer is asked to indicate the dimensions that matter most to them. This lets your department get to work improving the dimensions that are of the biggest beneﬁt to the customer.
Propositions are not enough in a periodic measurement, however; open questions are also a must. Answers to questions such as “What can the department do to be of better service?” support the scores for the five SERVQUAL dimensions. What’s more, the answers not only provide input on your current services, but also suggestions on what the department’s service provision is missing. This measurement grants insight into the customer satisfaction in broad terms; some improvements will not be achieved in a matter of days.
Think, for instance, of developing into a skilled service desk that achieves a high ﬁrst-time ﬁx percentage. This is a good example of a growth step that requires a lot of attention and long-term focus. You can then measure the results of your eﬀorts in the following year’s survey.
In addition to long-term improvements, periodic measurements can also provide quick wins that are easy to implement. For instance, if you discover that your customers do not know who to contact within your department, you can specify in your organization’s chat program who is on ﬁrst-line duty and, therefore, ready for any questions colleagues may have.
Continuously measuring services entails measuring how a service is experienced throughout the year. A customer is asked for feedback immediately after receiving a service from your department – when a call is resolved, for instance. This is often done in an email automatically sent from the service management system, such as the closure email. The message then includes a link to a brief survey where the customer can assess the service. The customer has just experienced the service, so they can clearly remember how it went and can therefore provide concrete feedback.
This measurement method is excellent for determining the Customer Eﬀort Score. This measures the eﬀort a customer felt had to be put in to get their call or request completed.
Measuring this perceived eﬀort dovetails with the goal of taking the most customer-oriented approach possible. After all, you are not working to wow the customer. Instead, you want to make it as easy as you can for colleagues to use so that they can focus on their primary tasks. A high Customer Eﬀort Score (in the customer’s experience they have to put in a lot of eﬀort to get a solution) should be followed up immediately.
If customers can also provide additional information about their score in the survey, it soon becomes clear why the score is high and how to follow it up. Think of comments like “I had to explain my problem three times to three diﬀerent service desk employees.” The operators in question can be alerted to the importance of a clear problem description in TOPdesk.
You can also link reports on Customer Eﬀort Scores for a speciﬁc period to speciﬁc parameters to help you spot structural problems from the customer’s point of view. Such a parameter could be a speciﬁc service, such as requesting a telephone. If the customer eﬀort score for this service is structurally high and many customers indicate that printing and scanning the form takes a lot of eﬀort, it’s high time to prioritize the simpliﬁcation of this procedure. This makes continuous customer satisfaction measurement a key performance indicator: You always have an up-to-date picture of how your department is doing, and you can immediately step in if necessary.
When to use which measurement method?
Periodic and continuous measurements are suitable for diﬀerent topics and lead to diﬀerent insights. To select a measurement method, it is important to check which situation applies to your department: Quick polish or complete overhaul?
Are you about to completely overhaul your services? Then a periodic measurement is recommended. It can then serve as a benchmark, so results can help shape the choices made during the change process. A benchmark also ensures that the results of your eﬀorts are visible in a follow-up measurement. The eﬀort is rewarded with improved scores. The results are also an important motivation for service desk employees to keep up a customer-oriented approach.
Are your services in order, or have you just completed a change process? A continuous measurement can help you gradually polish your service provision. Constantly receiving feedback from customers can help you quickly implement improvements. Is the customer always right? The extent to which you are focused on customer satisfaction also plays a role in selecting the measurement method. Continuously measuring requires discipline from the department: they have to put the results to use throughout the entire year.
If customer satisfaction is your most important goal, continuous measurement is a logical choice. Conversely, if you still experience customers as “diﬃcult,” a periodic measurement might work better. A complete picture of the service provision from the customer’s perspective can help the department realize the customer should come ﬁrst. Service catalogue or unclear supply? Continuous measurement becomes truly eﬀective when the results can be traced back to speciﬁc services. This requires a clear service catalogue.
If you do not yet have a service catalogue and your oﬀered services are still undeﬁned, a periodic measurement is the more obvious choice. With a periodic measurement, your customer will undoubtedly indicate that they would like a clear overview of services on oﬀer and the results could be a good occasion to invest time in this.
It should be clear that these two measurement methods grant diﬀerent insights. This is why the methods can enhance each other. So you do not necessarily have to choose one or the other. “The more customer input the better,” you could say. However, do keep in mind that following up on results is crucial for both measurement methods and requires a lot of attention. Only then is measuring worth it. To actually invest this much in the follow-up, choosing a single method at ﬁrst is advisable.
Nancy Van Elsacker is president of TOPdesk US, part of the global supplier of service management software solutions.