Client feedback is key to any company’s operations—yet getting customers’ frequent and honest opinions remains elusive in spite of (or probably because of) the proliferation of survey options available today.
At invoice factoring company Interstate Capital in Albuquerque, asking for customers’ reactions and listening to what they say has been a critical part of the corporate culture since 1993. More than 10,000 clients later, the company’s co-founders—still CEO and president—continue to gauge the pulse of client satisfaction on a regular basis.
The company’s confidential “Customer Care” program sends quarterly email surveys to its 1,000 current clients. Considering the frequency of these emails, the response rates are unusually high—often over 40 percent. Last month, 41 percent of clients responded to the survey and 94 percent of clients who answered reported they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Interstate.
While the firm’s account managers associated with those clients never see the results, the operations team reviews responses. They analyze the results with an eye toward continuous improvement and account manager training opportunities. When needed, they convey generalized feedback to account managers without identifying clients. Although the company’s upper management is pleased with the results such as these, it is that one client in 20 who did not register satisfaction with their factoring company that catches their attention.
Following up with those clients usually turns up easily resolved questions and issues. Sometimes client concerns are more complex, but all matters can be immediately addressed as soon as the client submits the survey. In the increasingly competitive sphere of accounts receivable financing, Interstate employees, from the receptionist to the CEO, focus heavily on client satisfaction and will take any measures necessary to ensure that the person who was less than satisfied with their customer service will be in the next survey cycle.
Marketing and operations managers who survey customers on a regular basis might envy a 41 percent response rate with a 94 percent satisfaction rating. The statistics are no accident, but rather reflect a pervasive mindset.
Paul Lopez, an Interstate account manager since 2013, takes the surveys seriously as a way to improve his performance. Last month, he had the highest client response rate out of his two dozen peers. In addition, he received a 100 percent satisfaction rating from his clients who received the most recent batch of surveys. Lopez had been a small business owner himself for many years and that experience leads him to continue to treat his clients as if they were the ones paying his wages. Here’s his survey strategy:
Let your clients know they will be receiving the survey
Lopez emails or calls each client to alert them to watch for an email from “President Cares.”
Remind them of confidentiality
Although positive responses feel nice, Lopez wants the good and the bad. He tells clients that he would rather have his supervisor know about any problems so they can be addressed.
Tell clients what to expect
Lopez lets them know that the survey is just three questions and takes less than a minute.
Thank clients for their participation
After the surveys have been sent, Lopez emails clients or gives them a call to check in to express his appreciation.
Use negative comments as impetus for change
For Lopez, the generalized feedback he has received from his managers has prompted better communications, fewer misunderstandings, and more peace of mind.
Regardless of the nature and frequency of your company’s survey program, you can make a difference in your response rates. Preparing clients to watch for surveys, adhering to strict confidentiality measures, and, above all, following up on any and all comments can result in significant increases in response averages. The bottom line is the company’s capability for continuous improvement and, above all, client retention.