Discuss about the Customer Satisfaction Research.
Customer satisfaction research is one of the most integral parts of assessing how well a business is running, be it a very large corporation or your local flower shop. Surely in this age of data we can predict quite a lot about the consumers based on buying patterns and such. However these are not comprehensive and often fail to take into account the human element of doing business. After all, the customer is always right! With that there is also the very tangible advantage of having better customer retention if the data can be channelled and processed properly, With that it also helps to foster loyalty among the customers and employees and also to lower turnover.
In this report we would be taking a structured look into what could be the objectives of taking on such a research and the business validation of it. We would also be looking into the shortcomings of this method and what the imagers should always be cautious about when taking such a survey into consideration.
Objectives of the research :
The main objective of the research is to correctly assess the level of satisfaction of the customers of the business and to take remediation wherever there exists a mismatch between the expected and the actual. Also, to recognise where the approach we are taking might be failing and to be on the lookout for that. Two of the many ways this can be addressed is :
- Importance- Performance Analysis in which we is a two-dimensional grid based on customer perceived importance of service attributes and attribute performance. Depending on the interplay of these two dimensions, strategies can be derived ( Lin, 2012). Thus we can mention that Importance Performance Information is a very useful tool for customer satisfaction evaluation (Geng & Chu, 2012).
- Gap Analysis approach: Servqual is a way of assessing service quality and managing customer expectation. Gap analysis is a part of this approach which deals with why customers get products of lower quality than what is expected. Customer satisfaction is one of the most ideal ways to use this tool as it also includes service quality and other aspects related to customer satisfaction with physical products and extended/expanded products (in the marketing sense). Within this approach we will specifically be looking into the various gaps that occurs. Precisely the knowledge gap, the policy gap, the delivery gap and the communication gap. More information on these are provided in the following section(El-Adly, 2012).
Information required to fulfil the research:
The knowledge gap pertains to the difference in what the consumer is expecting and how the management of the businesses perceives this i.e. their knowledge of this gap is not complete. This results in there being a gap between the service provided and what kind of service the customer is expecting. The existence of this means that the companies are not looking to meet the correct needs. This means that the allocation of resources is not efficient as these resources could have been better used elsewhere. In retail and most other customer facing businesses it is extremely important to minimise this gap. One of the best ways to solve this is by doing extensive market research including customer satisfaction surveys (Matzler, Sauerwein & Heischmidt, 2003).
We would be looking to find what it is specifically that the person likes in this store and what he or she did not. It would also be wise to make a note of what kind of alternative things they were expecting in the points they did not like about the store and the products. With this, a manager may be better able to reassess his or her decision of the various aspects of the store. Another thing that would be a big help would be to is to find what it is driving the customers to shop at this store tinted of the competitors. The management may be better focus on these so as to be able to retain the customers. Distinguishing between one time customers and loyal customers is also extremely important and should have different kind of policies directed at both.
The policy gap refers to when there is a conflict between the rules and regulations for the employees as directed by the management and the service policy. Even though the areas in which customers expect them to improve is clear to these people it is not very easy for the management of these companies to translate them into rules all the employees can easily follow. This again leads to poorly designed service systems. Also there is the added issue of them not being able to maintain and also update their provision for customer service. This also leads to a lack of standardisation across the store, in that someone might be able to better role out the expected service but another employee might not. This often leads the customer to seek the similar service with a competitor with better service delivery. This is again directly related to the gap that is created due to different perceptions of the delivery of the product.
Gap in delivery is one which relates to the gap which is born out of what the mandated standard of service delivery is and what is actually being carried out in these stores. This often occurs when the employees are not trained to the market standard even though they do have good procedures and processes in place and the there is no monitoring to see if they are maintains the required standard for service delivery. This is also born when the employees do not have sufficient knowledge about the product and are not able to help the customers as and when needed regarding this and are not able to properly clear up the queries of the customers. This is also often the result of poor human resource teams which do not take the pains to make sure that all the employees doing the service delivery are up to standard. Teams also have an impact in that there should be intra and inter team clarity about the work. For the customer satisfaction questions should be asked about he service of the employees and if they have met the standards the customer expects them to. The customer can grade what it is and how much it is that he or she liked about the various aspects of the service delivery it is in these stores and the management can the see if this matches what they were going for originally. If there exists a huge gap it might be useful to get the employees up to speed in the areas they are lacking in with trainings and targeted programs.
The last one is the communications gap which exists when the company is not able to meet with the expectations set up by advertisements and other forms of media in the minds of the customers. In order to entice customer these advertisements often promise over and above what would be actually be able to be provided so customers often walk in to be disappointed. Thus might just drive them to seek products where the product actually being advertised is close to the item in the stores. In a customer satisfaction survey it is possible to collect data regarding where the customer would have heard about the store and also about certain products if the store is such that it sells only a variety of products. If the customer had heard about this from advertisements run in the media and communication it might do well to further drill down so as to find out if the customers expectation of the product that was set from the advertisement has matched with what was found in the stores. If not then this information is to be collated and escalated to the relevant people so that the advertisements of the product or the store are more realistic so a stop keep customer confidence(Kaur, Sharma & Kapoor, 2012).
Considerations in the research process:
When collecting the data the manager should keep in mind the pitfalls that come in with any kind of data collection. That is the information furnished might not be correct and is subject to bias from the individual. It might be subject to individual bias as well as specification bias. Also steps should be taken to validate the answers furnished by the individuals by providing checkpoints at certain intervals.
As has been highlighted uphill now gap analysis is a very useful method to structure more useful customer satisfaction surveys and be able to better read data from there and use it for tactical purposes (Davis, Misra & van Auken, 2002). It is an extremely good way to look into the untapped potential of a business and use resources specially in the service delivery section optimally. This model is however static, in that it focuses on the performance of the business at a single point of time but does not consider how the business might be evolving in conjecture with the current market needs. It only took at the profit that might be generated by better customer service intros case but does not take into account how the company or the customer service industry might change as whole due to market trends. We would be taking further look into some of the limitations of this type of analysis when we are looking into making decisions based of this approach or adopting certain policies.
- The gap analysis as previously mentioned helps tap into what could be the business with the best resource allocation in the most efficient way. It tells you what are the drawbacks but does not provide any information on how to work towards not having these drawbacks anymore. Hence they help in defining what potential the business has but does not provide a framework of how the business should actually grow (McMullen, 2018). So this type of analysis is taken as to be only the introductory step when defining what the problem with a business could be. There is always need for further research so as to pinpoint the path the business needs to take in order to actually grow better to what the gap analysis approach says it can. Questions about what kind of investments it would take, in precisely which sectors to reach the potential the company has and to make it at par with expectations, will there need to be dedicated teams for further research and development, how to better the customer service so as to remain at par with the market or to reach above the average do not find easy answers in the research conducted to carry on this approach and are things the manager taking the decision should ahem to ask on his own.
- Though the ideal is that every business sis unique such that it faces no completion in the goods that it sells we very well know that in the real world this is a myth. Though possible for more quirkier item, things such a retail stores, clothing and accessories stores have to compete with one another for customers and often in the same location since mustily of such stores are found with the confines of malls and shopping complexes. For such businesses there always comes a question of competitors who might have been able to perform market capture if they are aware f new things which might potentially help the business when the the store under consideration is not. Though some idea can be gauged from customer service surveys a full idea is not possible and a manager should always try to stay on top of the market in terms of potential innovation and always keep in mind that there are multiple competitors to compete with.
- Another important one to always remember is the technological aspect of it. It is very much possible that the business is making technological advances that are known to the company itself but are not known to the public hence they offer it up as a solution and this is highlighted as a gap. Care should be taken to not take such things into consideration. Another side effect is that customers might want things the technology to provide for which is still not advanced enough. Another case might be that such advances is dependant on the advances of external technologies as well. The manager is to take this into account and manage customer expectations and his own policies accordingly. None of this information is provided by the gap analysis approach.
- There might be data rivals laws and other such restriction from the government regarding what information can be freely collected from the public. This brings into account the expensive and extensive work of data storage and data warehousing base don the rues and regulations set by the government. This is a cost specific angle and takes away from profits. Thus surveys are actually a very costly business and must be made so that they can very well target the main causes of the concerns of the business. Gap analysis also might point out that the gap would be met if the company expanded but that might not be within the rights and might be an anti-trust practice.
- Using specific numbers, or benchmarking, performance of products using quantifiable data is an excellent way to perform a gap analysis, but numbers can sometimes be deceiving. Businesses often go through cyclical changes due to external factors like the time of year, disposable income of consumers around the holidays, or ever changing fashion trends. It is important to use a series of numbers or average numbers when performing a gap analysis. The gap may be unusually large if the growth potential of a business is judged against a predictable slow season (Ledford, 2018).
Gap analysis is a part of this approach which deals with why customers get products of lower quality than what is expected (Moon, 1996). To assess the satisfaction of customers is one of the most useful ways of using this tool. It provides a clear insight into what are the various kinds of gaps that might be existing within the company and specially in the terms of service delivery (Yeung, Cheng & Chan, 2004). It helps to visualise what the business would look like in its full potential and helps identify the shortcomings. However , this tool does not provide the way to get to that utopia, just on hat are the things manager can focus on while going there. To conclude gap analysis specially in the context of customer satisfaction is a very good decision making tool as long as one is aware of its shortcomings.
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