Satisfaction surveys – feedback for better product and service quality
We all have been clients on multiple occasions and are – on the whole – fairly good at recognizing and appreciating good products and solid customer service. Still it is by no means easy to put oneself in the client’s shoes, thoroughly understand them and their specific needs as well as to use the understanding to build and deliver solutions that go beyond the client’s expectations. No matter how hard the challenge may be, meeting it is a very rewarding experience indeed.
You do not need to guess blindly what actually makes your client satisfied; you can engage them and lead them to provide you with insights on what supreme product and service actually mean to them. Systematically gathering, analysing and acting upon your clients’ feedback may very well enable you to better understand your customers’ concerns and expectations and ultimately help you deliver a product and service which is likely to delight rather than just be accepted by those you serve. Importantly – in doing so – you and your team are very likely to grow professionally and get better equipped to both attract and satisfy more customers in the future.
Client feedback sources
At Selleo, as in many other companies using Scrum, we collect and process feedback which emerges on a continuous basis from Scrum events held together with the clients’ product owners as well as from other encounters with the clients’ stakeholders. On top of that, however, we regularly conduct client satisfaction surveys which help specific individuals and/or teams to identify their own strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities for improvement as seen by the specific client stakeholders they deliver service to.
The observations made by clients from without the organization together with the conclusions they draw from their interactions with the team can provide invaluable input with which to design and develop better software products but also with which to create memorable customer experiences in the process of service delivery.
The survey – inspirations and adaptations
The client satisfaction survey designed and implemented in Selleo is based on the questionnaires devised and advocated by David H. Maister, the author of “Managing The Professional Service Firm” and “The Trusted Advisor”.
The author’s survey meant to elicit customer feedback was modified to better suit the business context we operate in; the modifications introduced help to capture the specific character of the service delivered by a software development house which is in principle preoccupied with designing and building custom software solutions (products!) together with the clients who commission the service. Accordingly, the survey is divided into two parts: one focused on the assessment of the quality of the product delivered (what) and the other which concentrates on the quality of the process of service delivery (how).
Product quality part aims to establish if and to what extent the client is satisfied with the technical characteristics of the solution crafted, such as its reliability, responsiveness, user-friendliness, the quality of visual design and the like. The first part is sometimes modified to reflect the specific requirements of a given client engagement / project.
As regards the service quality part of the survey, the criteria/questions have been grouped into a few categories, each centred on a different aspect of service delivery: the team’s overall attitude, accessibility and timing, process and communications, relationship management, contributions and the client’s overall impression.
Overall attitude.The client can review and assess the team in terms of how accurate and careful they are in their approach to work. While filling in the survey, they can also indicate whether the team members are proactive and anticipate potential problems and issues as well as if they offer creative solutions.
Time. In this section of the survey, the clients assess whether the team members are easily accessible time-wise. Other crucial factors include the team’s ability to work on deadline and ensure fast development at the client’s request.
Process and communications. Clients are asked to provide feedback on how effective the communication with the team members is. The factors that usually inhibit mutual understanding and efficient collaboration include technical jargon, poor documentation of the work done, insufficient and/or untimely explanations regarding the solutions implemented and actions planned. Thus clients evaluate if the team members can listen actively, keep the client updated on what is going on in their project and if the team are willing to deal with problems openly and quickly. The survey helps to make sure the process runs smoothly, the team communicate effectively and – importantly – the client feels they are involved, on track and in control.
Relationship. Good relationships with customers and, more specifically, with the people working at the client end, are the foundation of productive and long-lived cooperation. What is more, satisfying relationships are often a key factor behind recurrent projects and referrals, i.e., the business development practices the company strives for and greatly appreciates. In this section of the survey, clients can evaluate if the team members make them feel they and their needs are important to the team, if the team are easy to collaborate with and if they are proactive in offering support and helpful advice.
Contributions. It seems that one of the key factors in delivering unique customer experience may very well be the ability of the service provider to go beyond their narrowly defined value proposition. Thus it is a good idea to use the survey to find out if the client served feel that the team go beyond technological and implementation issues and if they understand the client business and the broader business context within which the client and their solution operate. It makes perfect sense to make sure the team are able to make valuable product contributions and are helpful in diagnosing the causes of the client’s problems, identifying the opportunities their clients face and redefining the client’s view of their situation. Some clients may surely not expect it, yet they are truly impressed when you are able to offer the kind of insights and contributions. Why not ask your client if you actually do so?
Gathering and processing the client feedback
The survey is administered online. The client needs about 10 minutes to evaluate the service delivery team against 35 performance criteria. Still some clients choose to elaborate on their assessment by providing more extensive and insightful feedback in the comments sections of the questionnaire. If the team wish so, they may also discuss the results and/or clarify specific points directly with the feedback giver during a joint review session. Having received their clients’ survey results the teams usually identify the areas where they exhibit the greatest weaknesses and undertake to work on one or two issues before they move on to tackle the the other opportunities for improvement.
The feedback provided by the client enables the team members to put themselves in their client’s shoes and better understand the experience the latter are going through. As a result, the team get a much better position to deliver the service which meets or even surpasses the client expectations. Last but not least, the insights thus received may provide directions to both the team as a whole and to the individual team members on how to become more professional in their approach.
If you are working with a software development service provider and would like to use the survey with them, feel free to contact me (g.rduch “at” selleo.com) – I am more than willing to share it.