EPMEPM: Customer Service

How Happy Are Your Clients, Really?

What is the best way to collect and measure how your clients feel about your services? Brock Fisher outlines the key elements and most common mistakes.

If you are passionate about measuring the customer experience and keen to implement measuring tools, there are two books that you should read: The Ultimate Question and The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Fred Reichheld.

Mr Reichheld is one of the world’s foremost authorities on customer loyalty and the metrics attached to it, and explains his system of measurement in a logical and scientific way that is backed by years of Harvard research.

In the following points I will discuss what I consider to be the most important elements of measuring how happy your clients are, and also cover some common pitfalls.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE
With the best intentions, people will often spend days or sometimes weeks painstakingly coming up with a list of questions that they would like a client to answer, then preparing and sending out a survey which is a page or two long. This then requires their client to spend their valuable time reading it, thinking about it, writing their response and then returning said survey. The question is: Would you?

Response rates are traditionally very low, and the results are often not in a format that is able to be collated and compared over time. Are you actually getting feedback from the clients who have the most valuable feedback to offer, or just those who have the most time? And has the outcome been a constructive use of your own time?

NET PROMOTER SCORE
The cornerstone of the Net Promoter Score model is one simple question, hence the title of the book. But the data that this produces over time is valuable in so many ways. We’ve been surveying our owners using this method since 2009 and it has allowed us to clearly see particular trends in our client base.

With over six years of data to graph, we can measure the effect that issues like property manager churn in portfolios, changes to department structure and tweaks to service delivery have on customer satisfaction levels. We now survey in such a way that allows us to drill down into specific actions and processes that we perform, to see which are well received by both owners and tenants, and which areas have room for improvement or require immediate remedial action.

SURVEY EVERYONE AND CLOSE THE FEEDBACK LOOP
The value in surveying is finding out what you are not doing well. What all your clients think of you is incredibly important, not just what the happy ones think. Some businesses seem to survey only those clients who are likely to be happy, which ends up being a false positive. Whilst this does provide a nice stroke to the ego, it completely misses the point of surveying in the first instance.

Getting in front of issues before they fester and drive clients to leave is precisely the point of surveying in this context. If you ask a client for feedback, always be sure to action and respond to the issues they raise in a timely manner. A system that ensures that this occurs and nothing is missed is integral to your success.

Surveying people badly is actually more damaging to your business than not surveying at all. Clients will quickly become distrustful, unresponsive and disengaged if you ask them for feedback, they offer it, and then nothing changes and their issue is not solved.

DON’T FORGET YOUR TENANTS
Tenants are clients too, and arguably the most important part of your business. They tend to be the ones that are most frequently forgotten in the customer service discussion, but represent a disproportionately high amount of online feedback in most businesses. So survey them, and listen to what they have to say.

Several years ago, we surveyed a selection of our tenants; the results made us go cowering into the corner, licking our wounds. Taking a few bravery pills and plucking up some courage, we commenced surveying and collecting results again around a year after that. We now survey tenants as frequently, and using the same methods, as we do our owners – and enjoy the same benefits of knowing what is working and what needs work in our business.

We’ve also been able to dispel the common myth that tenants cannot be happy. Altering our processes as a result of tenant feedback, along with training in the right areas, has led to an excellent improvement over time. We have worked hard in this area, and our tenant satisfaction rating is now in line with that of our owners, having started at a pretty low point as I will openly admit.

CONSTRUCTIVE, NOT CRITICAL
Customer service measurement is an ingrained part of our business culture. We celebrate it, we reward it, and we promote it by having dashboards in each of our offices that display real-time scores from owners and tenants. Our dashboards also display the compliments and testimonials that they offer our property managers and BDMs for the fine work that they do.

Property management is often referred to as a thankless profession, so in a world where people are quick to vent their proverbial spleen on social media the millisecond that something goes wrong, our team members find it a real morale boost to regularly receive compliments and high scores from their clients, and for the rest of the team to be able to see what a great job they are doing.

Additionally, many of our quarterly and annual award categories are based around our Net Promoter Score results, and this also forms one of our property manager KPIs.

Perhaps most importantly, we use the results for coaching. Because we survey in such a way that allows us to see which processes individual property managers excel at and which they need improvement on, we can customise the training and coaching we give that particular team member. This accelerates their professional development, leading to higher self-esteem in the workplace.

HOW TO LEAD THE WAY
In all industries, those businesses that lead the way in customer experience outperform other competing businesses. Consequently, the impact of effective customer service metrics in our business cannot be overstated. These have been an invaluable part of the growth and development of our business and processes, and an integral part of the professional development of our team members.

Taking those first steps can be the biggest struggle, but well worth the effort. Achieving meaningful outcomes in this space will form a cornerstone of your business growth for years to come.

Initially we simply used Survey Monkey, an online survey and database management program. Importantly, normal databasing rules apply, so you must make sure that you have effective ‘Unsubscribe’ and ‘Opt Out’ management. Every quarter we would upload the details of a selection of our clients, and collect results accordingly.

Over the years, as we grew, this method became progressively more difficult, and ultimately not scalable due to its highly manual nature. We’ve since invested in software that matches with our trust accounting program and our dashboards to provide one seamless, integrated and automated survey system.

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