Customer surveys for professional service engagements

I thought about our old customer survey process in the course of preparing for upcoming staff reviews. The old process consisted of sending a customer a short email and a link to a five question survey. If the customer hadn't replied within a week, we sent them a reminder about the survey. The email addressed the customer by name and included my phone number in case the customer wanted to speak to me. The customer survey used the Netflix rating system, which is a five point rating scale ranging from "I hated it," to "I loved it." This isn't a unique process. We recently chose to replace it with a process we feel will be more effective.

The survey had few questions to encourage responses. A five question survey doesn't sound like much for a $25,000 consulting engagement. I've met managers from other companies who send far more comprehensive and lengthy surveys.

Our survey responses for the past few years have shown high ratings with few complaints. Yet, the number of people responding hasn't been high. In other words, the data has been interesting, like the results from a primary election, but not reflective of a broad set of views.

This year, I'm overseeing the roll out of a Net Promoter System, to replace the outdated survey process. The idea of the Net Promoter System is that customers rank one survey question on a numeric scale. Customers will need to click a link in their email to reply. Customers can also opt to provide some color commentary in the comment field.

The math behind this system is also easier to understand. Count the number of people who liked our consulting and then subtract the people who were neutral and those who were unhappy. That is what generates the score. Provided it's a positive number and trends upwards, things are good. We will then follow up with dissatisfied customers. Apple, National, and Southwest all use this measurement for evaluating their staff and managers. This system also appears superior to the other common measure, "did they buy more consulting?" , which is not sufficient and outdated in today's budgetary climate.

The interesting questions for me in this roll out are:
•Will simplifying the survey process increase the response rate?
•Will an increased response rate show complementary data of responses during the last few years?

My theory is that we'll see a higher response rate and more complementary data. I won't be able to prove that theory without at least six months worth of data. Ideally, this will be a useful survey approach in the upcoming years.

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