The who, the what, the how, the why and the when. Let’s take a look at “the when” for establishing a timeframe for measuring customer satisfaction. Companies, organizations and governmental entities invest heavily in attempting to understand the drivers underlying customer satisfaction and ultimately repeat purchase and customer loyalty. This stream is an important part of the work that consumer and B2B market researchers find themselves involved in.
Typically we spend considerable effort in questionnaire design with the goal of incorporating all of the measures which may impact satisfaction, repeat purchase and willingness to recommend. I posit an equally important aspect of the process is understanding when we should survey customers. This timeframe will vary depending upon the nature of the product or service and the purchase process. Let’s look at a few examples:
- Service focus – if your organization has a customer / sales / customer service interaction model then it may be most effective to measure satisfaction right after the point of interaction. Remember our ability to recall fine details decays over time.
- Product usage – if customers need to have used the product before making an assessment, then we need to time the survey to coincide with product usage. Consumer products may be used immediately after purchase and therefore require less of a ‘usage window’. On the other hand with industrial products it may take weeks, if not months, before the users can make a valid assessment of their satisfaction.
- When all else fails – if an ongoing tracking survey is not feasible, then monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual measurements will provide actionable information. Although it may not be as actionable if some respondents are new users while others have more experience with the product/service. Some of this variation can be minimized with proper sampling.
The timing of a survey in relationship to the trigger incident (be it a sale, customer service engagement, participation at an event, etc.) is critical to maximizing the value of the data collected. Preliminary research may be called for if the researcher does not understand the nature of the purchase and usage cycle.