Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Five Steps IT Customer Satisfaction Surveys Go Beyond Routine

 Customer survey works but needs to be done more strategically, creatively and flexibly.

Most of the CIOs think IT customer satisfaction surveys help them to listen to users, adjust IT roadmap &  plan to accommodate changes customers need, and help evaluate IT performance; But some IT leaders may argue such survey is just a routine, won’t help IT from out of touch, ivory tower service, the survey result may not be objective to capture the truth what IT need, and psychology behind survey may not be so positive to help IT improve performance. Is there value in regular IT Customer Satisfaction Surveys? What’s the best way to do it?

1. The Purpose of Survey

  • IT performances: The value of regular independent assessments of customer satisfaction, feedback helps gain customer knowledge and evolving customer need, both critical to design and delivery of IT products and services. By Customer Satisfaction Surveys, CIO can gain some insight on what people think of IT performance; a view as to how the users feel about the service levels.
  • Improvement Opportunities: CIOs Should use the survey as an improvement vehicle. Satisfaction survey allows IT to learn about: Are you doing it right? Is your team doing it well? What can you improve on? Specifically, it allows you to point to particular service areas to identify improvement opportunities. If satisfaction goes down, you need enough specificity to take action.
  • Capture of Pulse of organization: True customer surveys should also capture the pulse of folks in the middle, which is going to be the largest group in any organization.  The survey is the true indicator of employee experience and satisfaction with the IT Services provided to its employee. This can be a great tool to use to engage stakeholders and to agree on rollout strategies, budgets, and Change Management.
  • Capture IT Service Trend: Customer Satisfaction Survey may also tell you what’s new needs of end users to give attention to. In a global organization, IT may not be present in every location, so that time and distance reduce visibility into how effectively IT serves each location. Second, while big problems get brought to the fore, people are often reluctant to tell the IT staff about the smaller issues, such as feeling they do not get enough personal attention. Surveys help bridge those gaps. A good response also gives you a feedback with ideas on making changes as per needs of a specific business units or geographical location or set of identified users by a certain category.
  • Validate IT Strategy/Investment Plan: timing these surveys just before budget planning cycles and/or the development/refinement of IT strategic plans proves quite useful. The surveys are another source of data to validate investment and plans and possibly revise them according to feedback provided. And yes, the questions need to be different for Executives and the day-to-day consumer. This gives business a much needed 360-degree view.
  • Comparison with other IT Organizations: CIOs may also learn with peers regarding how to run IT more effectively by comparing the customer survey result, and understand each IT organization’s strength and weak point.

2. The Shared Methodology & Potential Pitfalls of Survey

  • Customized Survey to Target Different Customers: The key is to ask the right questions to the right audience and get timely feedback accordingly. Survey need be customized to target different customers, for both strategic IT optimization and operational IT improvement.
  • The Positive Attitude: the psychology behind survey need be humbled, with expectation of getting negative feedback, in order to gain space to improve, or with appreciation if seeing anything at survey might be blind spot in strategic setting or the gap between strategy & execution;
  • Methodologies to Do Survey:
a. The survey should be succinct, but not too general;
b. Have customized question by user group. One size does not fit all
c. Change some of the questions once in 6 months
d. Find a way to incentivize the user to take the survey 

  • Two Means of Survey: There are at least two means of seeking customer satisfaction feedback. One by the response when an incident has been resolved on the resolution provided, the speed of response and performance of the analyst; or post-project survey on customer satisfaction; Second by an annual/semi-annual survey which goes into detail on the whole Portfolio of services provided.
  • Complement Survey with Face-to-Face Conversation: IT should complement survey with series of face-to-face conversation with related parties to ensure that both business and IT user priorities were addressed. The survey should also be well integrated with a multitude of communication and interaction practices in order for CIO and IT to gain a more objective view on IT's priority and IT's performance as well.
  • Craft the Right Question to Ask: How about tweaking the standard NPS question like this: "If you had a choice, how likely would you be to use us for your next IT project?"
  • Common Pitfalls: Some of the common mistakes being made include selecting the sets of questions to ask to make IT “complacent”-- believe that IT is doing an outstanding job or providing some "world class" service. but if IT learns to ask better or honest questions, the survey results may be different, though bitter, the survey result causes IT to pause and reconsider the value being providing. Then IT can make real improvements to our organization.
  • Surveys may not be so effective for application development and projects: the most complex challenge on projects is getting agreement on scope and requirements that will actually produce value for the company. Similar to SLA's, having an optimized process from the beginning to the end of projects to communicate and define specification, to monitor progress via  project dash board, and validate whether the value was achieved at the agreed cost and on the schedule is a better measurement.
  • Survey vs. SLA: Survey provides IT some useful information, performance against defined SLA's can also grasp certain result, how to leverage such information to evaluate IT performance more objectively is a learning journey.  
  • The psychology behind the survey: The challenge is how to write a succinct survey in such a way that it extracts meaningful information. It's not enough to ask how well we did. The psychology behind the survey is very important. If we only solicit positive responses, we may get an unreliable view of our performance. One suggestion is to not try and write your own surveys. Be sure to enlist the help of professionals.

3. The Context, Formats & Frequency of Survey

  • Annual/Semi-Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey: Many IT organizations perform one companywide customer satisfaction every year; some think twice a year is a good frequency; keep content at high level, not to ask specific questions about a certain individual in IT and keep it short (not more than 5-10 minutes to respond).
  • Ask Same Questions or Update Some Questions Every time: Some organizations may ask the same questions every year to compare to previous years, but some suggest to update a few questions in order to well reflect IT’s current strategy & priority, Keep the main questions consistent year to year to allow IT to see trends and make service adjustment.      
  • Digital Era need more Smooth Digital Touch:  the survey can become more informal, also more frequent, not just an annual event, but a continuous process to engage employees, as now social platform/gamification may provide even more flexible way to capture users' opinion, well embed into business process in employees' interaction, as now IT has permeated into everywhere in business today, also encourage broader customers to voice out.  IT may even set up a listening center to hear customer’s voice, both end customer, and internal customer.
  • Further Questions to Ponder:
a. Content: Does survey list the right sets of questions to ask, "right" means a lot, to leverage IT service's effectiveness and efficiency, innovation and flexibility., etc.

b. Context: Does the survey result make IT more complacent (we are doing a great job again) or make IT continue to improve? (accumulating enough criticism to help improve)

c. Scope: If survey is really helpful, can it be done at broader base, to include more parties, even end customers, or more often., etc

4. The Analytics of survey

  • Capture Insight via strategic and operational perspective: CIO and IT may care about both strategic perspective and operational viewpoint via survey, still, not just look at the survey in an isolated way, combine them with other communication results via multi-channel customer interaction, and make a fair conclusion to leverage multi-dimensional POVs. how should CIO do such user feedback management, well embed such information in decision making/project investment dynamically, and feedback management as an integral component of customer relationship management, becomes, even more, crucial
  • Dig into Root Cause, Not Symptom: IT need understand the root cause, rather than just try to look at the symptom, The results required careful interpretation as many questions had a wide spread of scores. Reviewing the associated comments and following up with specific individuals revealed that low scores were generally due to dissatisfaction with the company's IT policies.

  • Locate Pain Point & Touch Point in IT Service: we can't lose sight that IT needs to be viewed as a customer service organization. IT provides services back to the organization and need to be measured. It's nice to get complimentary feedback, but, even more, valuable is the feedback that would help IT understand where the pain points are, and perhaps where is the touch point IT service attention may need to be directed.
  • Leverage POVs via Survey Result: at a broader level, some CIOs discover the primary reason that IT groups get rated badly is that the different stakeholders have different goals for the company and what it does with technology... and they don't know how to calibrate toward a more common vision. So, people work at cross-purposes, mostly in good faith but somewhat sub-consciously, so they end up feeling disappointed and frustrated that what they want to achieve is not achieved. A survey focused on grading will generally manifest the dissatisfaction but it will not uncover what the real differences are so that people can change. Other methods are needed to solve the goal-disconnect problem.

5. Post-Survey Follow-Up

  • Follow up is the real challenge. Doing the survey is the easy part, the follow up is the real challenge where not only must you take action arising from the comments but you must be visible in communicating this back to the customers, this engages them further in the follow-on survey and also generally improves sentiment around IT itself (IT asks my opinion, they listen to what I have to say and then they do something about it = more satisfied customer base)
  • Take Action: In doing a general user survey, you discover the things that are really bothering people and that they are not reporting. It is also important to get back to those that responded as dissatisfied so that they understand that they did not waste their time and that you value and are acting on their input.
  • Communicate again, to convey IT's vision, strategy, priority, resource, reality., etc, make the process more transparent via an open feedback loop, also make conversation & execution more iterative and interactive, for the continuous improvement journey. 
In conclusion, customer survey works but needs to be done more strategically, creatively and flexibly. By carefully constructing the questions and analyzing responses with the respect to users, senior managers, and IT members, Most of IT organizations are able to gradually target the biggest issues and have a long term straight line improvement.


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