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ARTICLESManagement & Service


Anita calls Mrs. King from the local store

Anita -  'I understand that you are looking for a good cook'

Mrs. King - 'We were but we have found one'

Anita - 'That's very nice and are you satisfied with her'

Mrs. King - 'Well she does a good job and there is no reason to complain. So things are pretty fine right now'

Anita - 'I am quite happy to note that ma'am. I am sorry to have bothered you and also wish to thank you for your time'

On disconnecting the store owner who happened to overhear the conversation could not help himself but ask 'Anita you are the cook at Mrs. Kings. Why did you call her to fill your own position?' Anita replied, 'I just wanted to check how I was doing?'

It is wise for any individual to gauge his performance. This helps him improve on areas that need fine-tuning; it encourages him to do better; helps him understand his worth in the market; it helps him grow.

In today's fast paced business environment, where any given opportunity is grabbed to edge out competition it has become extremely vital for company's to do all possible to stay ahead of the rest. But to get there you must primarily know your own performance. You need to know if your performance meets customer requirements. And this is possible when you receive feedback on how you are doing.

The obvious answer that comes to mind is to ask customers themselves. While this is true, there are other sources that help give insight on the various areas of your operations. Feedback from these various sources if heard pragmatically would help the company improve and go a long way.

Customer Feedback
It is not how you think you are doing, that matters. All that matters is how customers think you are doing.

I took my daughter ice-skating a couple of weeks ago. Behind the counter where you collect skating boots was a small A4 size board. Neatly written on it was 'If you are happy with our service, tell others. If not, tell us'. There could not be a more direct and honest request asking customers to spread the word about good service. And in the same breath showing a willingness to improve, should it be otherwise. 'PLEASE TELL US'.

Solicited or not, customer feedback gives you an idea of how you are doing. When you ask him he starts to look around and see what would make him happier. And when you know what would please him more, you can work on meeting it. His feedback is worth its weight in gold. If it comes unsolicited hear him out carefully, thank him profusely, think of a way to reward his good gesture, let him feel proud that he did a great deed by suggesting, think about what he said and improve.

How often do you see 'YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME' or similar? How often do you see vendors treating it with total earnestness?

Customer complaints
Any customer who complains should be your friend. He has taken the time to tell you about areas that need improvement. It is coming straight from the horse's mouth. He is telling you as he sees it, without mincing words. In all his anger and frustration he is also indirectly implying 'DO IT RIGHT THE NEXT TIME, IF YOU WANT ME TO COME BACK'. He is giving you that golden opportunity to improve. So, take good care of him. Go the extra mile. Reward him for the initiative taken to complain. See that he benefits from his complaint as much as you do with his feedback. Convert his complaint to compliment.

Customer satisfaction surveys
This is the commonest ways of gauging your performance. A well thought out and structured questionnaire gives insight to all key areas in the organisation. It is normally conducted by professionals who do the survey and analyse data from all possible angles. However it does not always give a clear picture behind many a 'Yes' 'No' or 'Maybe' Even scales of 1-10 only give a fair idea of customer trends but not his perceptions.

If you are concerned about improvement, probe those 'No's' and 'Maybe's'. See how to convert it to a 'Yes'. This of course is possible when the satisfaction survey is an in-house exercise as you can immediately follow every 'No' and 'Maybe' with a 'Why'. Working for the company you are in a better position to understand customer feelings, requirements and interpretations to their answers. Again, never forget to reward your targets for the time and effort they are putting to answer your questions. You could ask them to keep the pen you provided along with the questionnaire or a free sample pack to follow. This encourages them to pause, think and answer instead of giving indifferent replies just to get rid of you.

Beyond customer feedback, a shrewd organisation can gather information from various other departments within. One such place is accounts receivables. While there has been no untoward incident with your customer, the moment you go to ask for money he invariably has a comment either on our service, product, delivery, quality, attitude etc etc before parting with the cheque. It is natural. After all he is paying you and so while performing the act of payment he is one up on you. Be wise to hear him out. Even if the element of truth is only one percent, it makes sense to consider his comments. A shrewd organisation should tap this source for valuable customer feedback.

Exit interviews
You have seen employees simmering for years and years while working with the organisation. The moment he has a better offer and has put in his resignation, all his pent- up feelings surge. A dormant volcano has suddenly turned live.

You want to know how you are doing? Well, ask him.

An exit interview helps the company gather important information about the working environment that affects employees that in turn affect customers. It gives insight to processes and possible flaws. The interview could turn a treasure house of information of how to do things better. He could tell you about bottlenecks, spokes in the wheel, whether systems support performance and much more. You could gather information that you never imagined happened in the company. But remember, exit interviews should be conducted after all exit formalities have been completed. This gives confidence and courage for the candidate to speak freely and voice his opinion. Think about it.

Another source of feedback would be our agents, distributors, franchisees, retailers and any type of middlemen whose satisfaction matters equally in our business success. Being business partners, they are equally concerned and outspoken about our service and performance.

Any company that maintains an open-minded attitude towards feedback can gear themselves to ensure more satisfied customers. They are the ones that will see more customers and more business. They will in time be far ahead of the rest in their business.



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