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Best Practice in Measuring Customer Satisfaction

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This is a best practice in the measurement of customer satisfaction courtesy of CDW, one of America’s largest private companies with technology sales of more than eight billion dollars in its most recent fiscal year.

CDW had been using Net Promoter to measure customer satisfaction and brand health. You get a Net Promoter Score by asking one question of your customers—How likely is it that you would recommend your company to a friend or colleague?—and then grouping the responses by promoters (those who answer the question with a 9 or 10), passives (7-8), and detractors (0-6). You subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters to get your Net Promoter score.

This has been a leading edge measure for many companies because it helps them identify opportunities to improve customer satisfaction. CDW decided that Net Promoter was too one-dimensional so, with the help of the person who developed Net Promoter, it went to a three-question approach that, according to Calvin Vass, CDW’s senior manager of research, looks at “different dimensions of the relationship; what the customer plans to purchase with us, if they are committed, and what they would do if we went away.” Vass is quoted in “Is Net Promoter Really the Ultimate Question?” by Drew Neisser (Fast Company, October 20, 2010).

CDW segments its market into two groups, Active Customers and Less Active Customers. It surveys the first group quarterly, receiving more than 100,000 surveys per year. It surveys the second group monthly with more than 800,000 inquiries annually. “We are always trying to bring [the second group] more deeply into the franchise,” said Vass.

CDW’s senior leaders review customer feedback quarterly and act on their analysis to improve performance, such as launching new customer retention initiatives in 2009. One initiative involved asking customers what types of technologies they were interested in rolling out in the next couple of months. “Through this research,” Neisser writes, “CDW identified 12,000 customers interested in specific offerings that were passed onto the sales team. These leads were turned into 200,000 quotes and 108,000 orders placed, amounting to a whopping $230 million in additional revenue.”

CDW responds to any negative feedback or problems identified by its customer surveys. It’s quick and positive response to more than 7,300 complaints has helped boost customer loyalty.

Another initiative involved the formation of three customer “communities” comprised of 300 small, 300 medium, and 300 large business customers. CDW asks each group for input on advertising, product, and operational issues, and it encourages members to communicate with each other. “They can ask another member about a specific type of technology,” said Vass. “It is a very vibrant back-and-forth conversation, certainly not one-way at all.”

The goal of any customer satisfaction measurement system is not the score: It’s using the information from the survey to improve customer loyalty and bottom-line results. CDW offers innovative ways to do both.

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