The Death of Customer Satisfaction

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Every day, a quarter of the world’s population connects via Nokia Siemens Networks infrastructure, products, and solutions. The company serves telecommunications providers and partners in every corner of the globe with more than 70,000 employees throughout 150 countries. This giant business-to-business company is a client of UP! Your Service, and they knew very well that satisfying customers was essential for growth in profitability and market share.

But Nokia Siemens Networks had a problem: its Customer Satisfaction Survey was unwieldy. The survey had grown bloated, expanded over time to accommodate many internal requests for more data and details on customer expectations, perceptions, priorities, and competitive comparisons. It was like a bus with 48 seats and 100 extra people hanging from every window, rooftop railing, and bumper.

Customers did not enjoy this annual assessment process. Most ignored it. Many who did complete the survey used it as a hammer to hit the company hard with their complaints. Employees did not appreciate it either: it was difficult to decipher and hard to fathom what to do. Even worse, individual incentives were tied to very specific changes in one part or another of the survey, leading to individual actions that did not align each other across the organization.

“Imagine a customer satisfaction survey that consisted of 150 questions,” says Jeffrey Becksted, the company’s Head of Customer Experience and Service Excellence. “We thought that the more information we could collect, the better we would be able to respond. But, imagine the effect of 80 thickly detailed PowerPoint presentations descending on our organization all at the same time. We simply had too much data for us to digest in a meaningful time frame. We were so focused on asking our customer about us, that we failed to ask the really important question of what actions we can take to create more value for them.”

Managers at Nokia Siemens Networks knew there was a problem with the survey. “It was obvious that we had to take a fundamentally different approach to surveying our customers,” Becksted says. “We were focusing on too many areas, and not asking action-oriented, value-creating questions. So, we started over.”

Rajeev Suri, the CEO of Nokia Siemens Networks pulled the plug on this dysfunctional practice, and formed a new team to find a better way to measure. Imagine that for a moment. Here was a legacy process-built on years of adding, and arranging questions to collect feedback for every department and process throughout the company-that generated massive amounts of data.

And, overnight, the Customer Satisfaction Survey was gone.

How do you move beyond satisfaction? How do you stop looking backward to evaluate performance, and instead look forward to create new possibilities and potential? By changing your mindset and transforming your survey to a value-add proposition. Nokia Siemens Networks brought people from different departments together with a new goal-to create conversations and cultivate insights that would improve the relationships with their clients moving forward.

“Instead of asking clients how they rate our service, we asked them to explain their challenges, their goals, and the ways in which we could help them,” says Becksted. “We asked them where Nokia Siemens Networks fits into their future-not how we’ve served them in the past. We asked about expectations and their experiences of working with Nokia Siemens Networks.”

Today, instead of 150 questions focused on expectations, satisfaction, and competitive comparisons, Nokia Siemens Networks interviews its clients with a Customer Experience Survey that has far fewer questions and a greater focus taking the right new actions, on increasing loyalty, and building future business. And, they’ve already witnessed a tremendous response.

“It’s a simple change,” says Becksted. “‘How did we do?’ — a lagging metric of past performance — becomes ‘What can we do?’ — a leading indicator of future success.” How can you move beyond satisfaction? “Change the goal,” says Becksted. “Companies don’t put limits on process improvement, product development, and the bottom line. Why put a cap on improving service by simply reaching customer satisfaction? The goal needs to be constantly adding value. Focus on them, not you. Instead of asking a client to tell you how they perceive your service, ask them to tell you about their needs, challenges, desires, and goals. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve done as much as it matters how they see you in their future.”

“Get leadership involved,” Becksted concludes. “If the leaders of an organization can’t see the detriment of only measuring the past, then your company is doomed to become a thing of the past. However, if they can look into the future, and change the mindset and the survey, to move beyond satisfaction, the results can be astounding. It’s a simple change that’s already paying off for our company and our customers.”

PS: This blog post is excerpted from Chapter 14 of the New York Times bestselling book, “UPLIFTING SERVICE: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues and Everyone Else You Meet”. www.UpliftingService.com

PPS: A related and very interesting video on this topic by Ron Kaufman is here: “It’s Time to SCRAP the Customer Satisfaction Surveys!”

Posted On: 28 May 2012
Categories: Service Measures and Metrics Voice of the Customer
Tags: , , ,


9 Responses

  1. satya says:

    kudos to NSN for taking the bold move to stop what they were doing many years and completely change. I do hope other companies do the same. customer sat surveys has yielded little or no any impact on business performance specifically in B2B because the respondents are hardly decision makers.

  2. A related video on this topic (a bit of a rant, really….) is called “It’s time to SCRAP the Customer Satisfaction Surveys! Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vM2KKRIpxs

  3. Franz Tufiño says:

    For a World in a Fast Motion; it makes sense to change the way to do a Customer Satisfaction Survey. Focus on what are the things a supplier company can improve in it´s service, doing more than only analyze what was wrong in the past. In a mature telecommunications market with new technologies evolution and, where some operators ask for price reduction; I believe that Excellent Service will be the Big Differentiator….while taking care, of course, to provide realistic Cost of Ownership!

  4. Naresh Vassudhev says:

    Thanks for that. It is true that we can get bogged down as customers with a long C-SAT Q form in front of us when it is time for us to move on. Shifting the focus from Company to Customer in the Q form actually means much more to the customer. And closing the loop is the key.

    Thanks once again.

  5. Robin Langdale says:

    As usual from Ron, something so obvious that it is difficult to understand why it wasn’t obvious much earlier!

  6. Lis Thorarinsson says:

    Working in Nokia Siemens Networks – in Global IT, I can tell that we do the same internally. In IT we have two kind of customers; End Users and Business Stakeholders. We are all the time working with both the customer surveys and our other service situations and systems in the light of Service Excellence focusing on both what they dream about, their challenges and how we from IT can creaste value and support their business and needs. Service Excellence methods from UP Your Services and Ron, is used in all levels of our organization and especially in IT our guys are very technical focused, and the Service Excellence mindset is an excellence way to really have them understand how important it is for them to know our customers business, challenges and wishes and act out of this.

  7. Marlon Taylor says:

    This was a really great post and insight to something we in the services business should always be aware of! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Santanu Nandi Majumdar says:

    I have a different view on this one. While I agree that the length of a customer satisfaction survey should not be unwieldy, it is incorrect to say that customer satisfaction surveys are not relevant to an organization. Most customer satisfaction surveys are quantitative in nature and provide organizations with a width of information as these are conducted over a very large sample sizes. Qualitative studies, on the other hand, provide the depth of information but is usually done on a smaller sample size owing to cost and feasibility issues. If a company wants to quantify where it is currently and whether it has been able to move the needle with respect to its past performance as well as relative to its peers, it may be in a better position to do this through a quantitative study.

    Secondly, consumers in general, may not be so articulate in explaining their challenges, goals, and the ways in which company could help them. In many instances consumers do not know or may not be able to articulate what they want.

    Customer satisfaction surveys, if administered properly, do reflect the performance of a company. Hence just saying that it is dead or has lost its relevance is too naive.

  9. @Santanu Nandi Majumdar
    Your comment is completely valid. Customer satisfaction measures DO have their place, and properly administered can deliver great insight and value to an organization. The article is intentionally provocative to generate reflection: is customer satisfaction measurement on its own enough? Have many companies become so focused on customer satisfaction measures that they are missing the invention of the future? The point at Nokia Siemens Networks was an inward and backwards and competitor focused view that prevented a vigorous view towards the future. They successfully turned that around. I am not sure the same can be said for many other large companies that proclaim “We are committed to customer satisfaction” – while new and nimble competitors appear and seduced their apparently “satisfied” customers into new and more creative engagements. THANK YOU for taking the time to write your views. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that generates value for our Uplifting Service community. Glad to see you are here. Ron Kaufman



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