Quality Matters - 10/02/2007 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
Customer Satisfaction Surveys for Quality Improvement
Many trade contractors unofficially survey their customers but this practice simply does not achieve the same result as conducting a formal customer satisfaction survey.
Most professionals in the home building industry have heard of the homeowner satisfaction surveys done by companies such as JD Power and Associates, and their importance to builders competing for market share of new homebuyers. As a result, many home builders now make great efforts to survey their homebuyers, analyze survey results, and take actions to address areas of dissatisfaction in hopes of improving their rankings. By contrast, anecdotal evidence from having encountered thousands of trade contractors over the last five years has revealed that fewer than 10 percent of trade companies formally survey their customers. Since only the customer can express his feelings of satisfaction of displeasure, how do trades know if they’re meeting expectations if they don’t ask?
In reality, many trade contractors do unofficially survey their customers by way of daily interactions on jobsites, in passing at builders’ offices, and conversations over casual lunches. And while this approach may be effective for maintaining general goodwill, it simply does not achieve the same result as conducting a formal survey. Typically, even those trades who do formally survey their builders limit the distribution of their surveys to the builder’s field personnel—neglecting key staff such as customer service, purchasing, warranty, and accounting who may provide valuable feedback. If there is a significant problem area outside of the field operations and a trade only surveys the field, how will they ever know of the problem?
Another benefit of a written survey is that it allows a trade contractor to actually come up with a numerical score for each question, as well as an overall score, which can be compared year after year to gauge whether the company’s satisfaction levels are increasing or decreasing, and which performance areas need improvement.
An ideal customer satisfaction survey is concise and easy to fill out, making a builder more likely to take the few moments needed to provide responses without feeling overburdened by the request. Many trade contractors report that their builder customers are extremely surprised and pleased when asked to provide feedback on the quality of the work that they do. In some instances, trades discover areas and/or levels of dissatisfaction that they were not aware of, and are able to take corrective actions to increase their satisfaction levels significantly.
One trade contractor recalled that participation in the NHQ Certified Trade Contractor program was the first time that his company of several hundred workers had ever done a formal customer survey. At 69 percent, their initial overall satisfaction results weren’t so good. After 12 months in the NHQ Program, that score had soared to 94 percent. Without the survey, the company may never have been aware of its mediocre customer satisfaction level, or the tremendous improvement over 12 short months. In addition to a great morale boost, the company experienced an increase in profits from improved quality, reduced callbacks, and more satisfied customers.
Now is a good time to begin your customer satisfaction survey process. Get started with these helpful tips:
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