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70 The PCB Magazine • April 2014 KISS Keep It Simple Steve. There are many tools for soliciting customer feedback such as focus groups, interviews, customer complaints, and face time with the customer, but a well-devel- oped survey can be the easiest way for a com- pany to begin gathering customer perceptions. When designing the survey, making it as easy for your customers to complete is of paramount im- portance. How many of us have received a sur- vey in the mail with a dollar bill taped to it, kept the dollar and tossed the survey? Why do we do this? Because it is a four-page paper survey with 40 questions that has to be put into an envelope and taken to a mailbox. No one has time for that. With today's technology, an e-mail or Web-based survey can be completed by a customer in three minutes without having to leave their desk. Re - member, how you invite them to participate, the way you ask questions and which design tem- plate you use will affect participation rates. Sur- veying all of your customers will not net out the results you are looking for; applying the old reli- able 80/20 rule to your revenue stream should result in capturing your top 10–20 customers. A Web-based methodology is the preferable medium for ease of use, demographic data cap- turing, and automated scoring/reporting. It can also incorporate automatic email notification to senior management upon receipt of an unac- ceptable survey rating. Actionable Strategies When designing the questions to be used in the survey, take care to ask questions in which the subject meets the following criteria: • Must be within the organization's control • Must be one that the organization is committed to take action to improve • Will provide a competitive advantage These may sound simple, but many times a company will implement a customer bench- mark survey, review the data, and let the pro- cess end there. The summary data needs to be presented to a steering committee-level man- agement group, actions assigned, and progress monitored throughout the year, tying out into next year's survey. The intent should be to cap- ture your customer's perceptions of key areas of weaknesses and strengths, and develop an ac- tion plan to improve them. How Not to Use Customer Feedback Your goal with customer feedback is to gain honest, unbiased input that can be used to im- prove organizational performance. With that in mind, I would like to share a real life personal experience that exemplifies how not to do this. After having some maintenance done recently on my truck at a former "big-three" dealership, I received a customer satisfaction survey in the mail asking me to rate the quality of customer service during my visit. The same day I also re - ceived a personal phone call from the service technician that handled my truck, who wanted to let me know that any rating by me less than "excellent" would result in his getting fired, los- ing his first-born son, or some other undesirable consequences for him. I returned my survey with my honest critique, noting this conversation and taking exception to the methodology used by the dealership. But how many people would have felt pressured to rate their experience as excellent if it really wasn't? And how valuable is this information to the dealership? From a customer feedback standpoint, it is worthless, and it sure puts all the customer service awards hanging in the showroom in a different light. No level of performance is sustainable with- out an occasional adjustment. The appropriate adjustment in strategy can only be developed after measuring your customers' perceptions. As I have said before, you can't improve what you haven't measured, and remember, "Perception is reality." PCB steve williams is the president of steve williams consulting llc (www.stevewilliamscon- sulting.com) and the former strategic sourcing manager for plexus corp. He is the au- thor of the books, Quality 101 Handbook and survival is not mandatory: 10 things every ceo should know about lean. to read past columns, or to contact williams, click here. CUSTOMER FEEDBACK: PERCEPTION IS REALITY continues

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