Editor's Note: Satisfaction Guaranteed

Editor's Note - February 10, 2003
I've long been a skeptic of customer-satisfaction surveys, and my skepticism only increased last week with two separate incidents. The phone experience: "Hi, I'm calling to see if you were happy with the service we provided to you yesterday," the caller said. "Actually, that was something my husband handled," I replied. "Well, if you could tell me if he was happy with the service, I can include it on my survey," the caller said. "Well, you'd have to ask him, and he's not here," I replied. "Did he seem happy about it?" the caller asked. "I didn't hear any complaints, but I didn't ask," I said, growing impatient. "OK, then, I'll mark him down as a satisfied customer," he said. "That might not be accurate," I argued. "You'd have to ask him to know for sure." "OK, we'll call back another time," the survey taker said. He never called back.

The in-store experience: "Ma'am, thank you for your purchase. If you'd fill out this customer-satisfaction survey, I'd appreciate it." "No problem," I said. It was short and I was happy with the service. "And if you give our store all 5s (the highest rating), I'd be happy to give you a discount coupon for your next visit." I see, you reward customers who really like you but don't do anything to lure back partly satisfied customers?

Well, you get the picture. While some of the customer-satisfaction results that companies tout may be truthful and thoughtfully gathered, these particular companies weren't exactly giving me the impression that they do so. The good news is that I happen to know from some of the reporting that InformationWeek has done on these companies (both are national companies with sizeable IT budgets) that there are serious efforts under way to improve customer relationships through the use of IT. It's the human element that needs a bit of optimizing in these cases.

In these cost-cutting times, it's also good to see that building better customer relationships remains a top priority for many business-technology managers, according to InformationWeek's Priorities studies. Some of that comes from new investments in technology, some from overhauling business processes, and some from real-time business strategies. In coming weeks, we'll bring you examples of these strategies-and the technologies behind them. Stay tuned.

Stephanie Stahl
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