Tracking customer satisfaction


There is a growing recognition among companies that serving and satisfying customers, rather than merely selling to them, is critical for competitive superiority in markets crowded with me-too products clamoring for attention.

Nevertheless, true commitment to customer service and satisfaction requires, among other things, the systematic tracking of how well a company is catering to its customer’s needs.

While providing customers with a communication channel is conductive to gaining an insight into their feelings, it is insufficient for tracking customer satisfaction effectively. Most customers may not bother to use such channels, especially if they believe that their feedback is unlikely to do any good— a belief that is frequently reinforced by callous company representatives who confront complaining customers. So, companies must augment passive methods with active, systematic research.

An effective tracking system must not rely solely on informal, qualitative approaches. Successful firms that have an excellent reputation for customer service— Marriott Hotels, Federal Express, Xerox, and General Electric to name a few –use both qualitative techniques as complementary approaches for collecting satisfaction data. These companies also view their own employees as internal customers and obtain formal and informal feedback about their satisfaction levels.

To be most beneficial, all customer satisfaction measurement systems should be ongoing and use multiple approaches. The accompanying table illustrates a system that be appropriate for services companies.

A Customer Satisfaction Tracking System

Type of research
complaint solicitation
Continuous Identify dissatisfied customer
to attempt recovery Track service failure categories for remedial action.
Continuous Obtain feedback while experience
is still fresh and act on it quickly if negative patterns develop.
focus group interviews
Monthly Provide a forum for customers
to suggest improvement. Offer quick, informal feedback.
Mystery shopping
of service providers
Quarterly Measure employee behavior
for use in training and performance evaluation. Identify strengths and
weakness in customer-contact service.
Total market
quality surveys
Thrice a year Assess a company’s service
performance compared to competitors. Identify service improvement priorities.
Track service improvement over time.