One of the most appealing phrases from the reign of former New York Mayor Ed Koch was his smiling, "How'm I doing?" Koch was conducting an informal poll of customer satisfaction every time the phrase left his mouth; although I was never sure he cared what the answer was. It was asking the question that was so powerful because so many people don't ask because they are afraid to find out the answer.
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In June, Accounting Technology asked readers what were their most efficient means of measuring customer satisfaction. A clear divide emerged between resellers, who actively measure, and CPA firms, who seem inclined to wait until clients leave.
CPAs probably measure more than they think because they talk informally with clients and can sense unhappiness. And, the software reselling business is more volatile so there is more pressure on those organizations to stay in touch.
But measuring before clients announce they are leaving is still a good idea. After all, we don't always read other people as well as well think we do. Some of them are very good at hiding their true feelings.
Besides finding out if there are problems, customer satisfaction efforts can be coupled with business development. Finding out what's wrong and what's not working can suggest that firms look for more ways to help their clients and that translates as finding projects that can be billed.
I am not suggesting how firms can perform satisfaction surveys, whether structured or informal. That's not the kind of thing I am an expert in. But I believe that there are simple ways of accomplishing this.
A friend of mine has been director of research for a Wall Street investment house for many years and he was spending a lot of time in England researching the restaurant business. I once asked how he conducted his research. His answer was: "I go to a restaurant at dinner time, eat a little and count the number of customers. Then, I go to another restaurant, eat a little and count the number of customers."
If that's good enough for an American who was able to have his daughter debuted at an Austrian castle, I figure the success of an approach this simple means we all have ways of doing market research that doesn't require spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You can put together questionnaires, and if you have a large enough company, you can make it somebody's job to send out surveys and monitor client satisfaction. You can look for new and innovative ways to do this.
Or maybe, you can pick up that phone and call your most important clients and ask, "How'm I doing?"
Editor Robert Scott also writes "Consulting Insights," a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It's insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com.