The One Question Every Business Should Ask

Customer service is a buzzword today. Social media amplifies customer satisfaction feedback. Brands and companies can no longer afford to give poor customer service.

Years ago I had a washer from Sears. My wife was very busy with our young twins at home who where under two years old. One day, my wife calls to tell me that the washer wasn’t working. Every parent with teething children knows, that a broken washer is not good. I contacted Sears to send out a technician to fix the machine. As expected, we had to go through a process to have a service call logged. Two weeks later the technician arrived at our house. He worked on the machine for over and hour. Then declared that the machine was fixed, gave my wife a copy of the service record and left.

An hour later my wife put a load in the washer. Imagine her disappointment when she found the machine still not working. I called Sears to inform them the machine still wasn’t fixed. Their response was: “We’re sorry sir, this is a warranty call back. So, we will be there in two weeks.” I tried to explain that it wasn’t a warranty issue, but the technician left without fixing the washer. They refused to listen.

From that day, I started a personal boycott of Sears. I throw away all their fliers before anyone looks at it. I also tell all my friends about my experience with Sears. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Sears Canada filed for bankruptcy protection. With customer service as bad as I experienced, they must have been losing customers for years.

So, how do you ensure that you are providing good customer service? Customer satisfaction surveys are good, but many are too lengthy. You should ask your customers one question that will tell you all you need to know.

On a Scale of One to Ten, How Likely Is It That You Would Recommend Us to a Friend of Colleague?

In a December 2003 article, Harvard Business Review provides a great overview on using this question. The results from this question is your Net Promoter Score. Your average score should be above 70%. Segregate the results into the following three categories: scores of 0 to 5, 6-7 and 8-10. Here is what you need to know these categories:

  • 0 to 5: These customers are detractors. They are telling others not to buy from you.
  • 6 to 7: These customers are apathetic about your service or product. They might not be telling other to avoid you. But, they won’t bother to tell others about your business.
  • 8-10: These customers are promoters. They are satisfied with your customer service. These customers are telling other people to buy from you.

If you are like most people, you are surprised that a seven out of ten isn’t good enough. Think about your own experiences though. It’s easy to write a negative review or social media post. You have probably done this in the past. But, you have to be impressed, not satisfied, before you’ll be willing to write a positive review.

Here are three actions steps to take:

  1. Approach your detractors to find out why they are not satisfied. If you have provided poor service, then fix it. If it’s under your control, fix the relationship. Sometime, the fit between the you and the customer isn’t right. If so, help the customer find someone to serve them better. This may turn them into a promoter for you, but if nothing else will remove a detractor. Eliminating detractors is critical. Negative voices always seems to be louder than the positive voices.
  2. Approach your apathetic customers. Don’t ask them how to improve your customer service! Here is what you want to say: “I’m sorry that you’re not completely satisfied with our service. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service. Can you help us fix this by providing us with specific feedback on what we should change?”. They will likely try to deflect this, but don’t let them. Showing them you care about their experience will already improve their experience.
  3. Reach out to your promoters with a small gift of appreciation. Then find out what has pleased them, but also what you can do to improve. The most important follow though is to ask: “What can we do to help you recommend us to your friends and colleagues?”

Improving your net promoter score will help you manage your customer satisfaction. It is a key performance indicator that ever business should track and manage. You can look at our feedback page to see how we track this. On there, we have a link to our customer satisfaction survey and a link to our Google review page.

What have you done to improve your customer satisfaction? Have you heard of the net promoter score before?

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