Written by Roy Persson, Vice President

I love buffalo home fries.  I’ve been a loyal and satisfied customer of T’s restaurant for over 20 years.  But it’s more than their buffalo home fries that keeps me coming back as a satisfied customer.  Every so often I get the opportunity to travel back to my home state, Rhode Island, and the brunch experience they provide is one of many things that make me feel like I’m truly home.  But why exactly do I always go back?  For some, it could be the art that adorns the walls in the cute and cozy atmosphere.   It could be amazing dark roast coffee that comes in a thick heavy T’s branded mug.  It could be the varied seasonal menu that always reminds me that “I’m in New England.”  For business owners like Anthony Tommasseli, the reasoning is a critical piece of information–one that is just as vital to their organizational success as the secret recipe for buffalo home fries.

Statistics show that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, but 91% of those that are dissatisfied actually leave and never come back.  What’s worse is that nearly all unhappy customers are likely to tell at least one person about their bad experience, and 13% of them are likely to tell more than 20 people!  For these reasons customer satisfaction research can be considered one of the most vital marketing research programs that an organization can have.

Customer satisfaction research (also called Voice of the Customer [VOC] by some organizations) is an area of marketing research that focuses on customers’ perceptions with their shopping or purchase experience.  The research is meant to help companies measure satisfaction, identify unhappy customers, pinpoint reasons for satisfaction, and find the strongest advocates of the organization.  It can serve as an early warning system for a deteriorating service level, saving an organization from customer abandonment before it becomes too late.  But when it’s not being used for risk management it can also be used for concept refinement to measure the effectiveness of new products and services that a company may introduce to market.  Lastly, voice of the customer research can be used to influence the direction that a company is moving in, providing strategic insight into corporate investment in things like staff training, website usability, and product innovation.  For all of these reasons it shows how important it is to understand and use customer satisfaction surveys within your company.

Unfortunately, after standing in line for over an hour and a half at T’s on Mother’s Day I had to leave.  There would be no buffalo home fries and dark roast coffee bliss in my pseudo-New England home.   For the first time, I was left as a very dissatisfied customer when I was told three times that a table would be ready in 15 minutes.  Worse yet, Mother’s Day breakfast was ruined.  I’m left with only two choices: to continue as a loyal patron despite the horrible service or to never eat there ever again.  If I could only just vent to them through a customer satisfaction survey, that would give me the gratitude of being heard and allow me to continue as a loyal patron without feeling so abused.  The reality here is that not all negative feedback in a customer satisfaction survey is game ending for the relationship; sometimes just giving the customer a voice for their complaint is the first step in healing the relationship.  Think about how many customers can be saved simply by giving them a voice.  Now that’s financial justification alone for investing in a customer satisfaction research program.

In my next blog I’ll share some tips that will help any organization build good customer satisfaction research. Stay tuned…