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6 April 2017

2 ways of measuring IT customer satisfaction

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More and more organizations are becoming aware of the necessity of internal customer satisfaction surveys for improving services. Some organizations gauge this every year, others continuously. Which measurement approach is right for your situation?

Depending on the requirements and capabilities of your organisation, there are two different approaches, that both have advantages and disadvantages - depending on what you want to use them for. These are periodic measurements and continuous measurements. This is when to use which, and some best practices for both.

Periodic measurements

A periodic measurement means that a survey is sent to the entire customer base, usually on an annual basis. Such measurements are ideal for gauging the services in broad terms. All main aspects are included in the questionnaire.

SERVQUAL is a commonly used research model to cover all these aspects. SERVQUAL divides the services into five dimensions (Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy and Responsiveness). Your customer receives a number of propositions for each dimension, asking about their experience. Moreover, your customer is asked to indicate the dimensions that matter most to them. This lets your department get to work improving the dimensions that are of the biggest benefit to the customer.

Propositions are not enough in a periodic measurement, however: open questions are also a must. Answers to questions such as ‘What can the department do to be of better service?’ support the scores for the SERVQUAL dimensions. What’s more, the answers not only provide input on your current services but also suggestions on what the department’s service provision is missing. This measurement grants insight into the customer satisfaction in broad terms as some improvements will not be achieved in a matter of days. You can then measure the results of your efforts in the following year’s survey.

In addition to long-term improvements, periodic measurements can also provide quick wins that are easy to implement. For instance, if you discover that your customers do not know who to contact within your department, you can specify in your organization’s chat program who is on first line duty and therefore ready for any questions colleagues may have.

Continuous measurement

Continuously measuring services entails measuring how a service is experienced throughout the year. A customer is asked for feedback immediately after receiving a service from your department – when a call is resolved, for instance. This is often done in an email automatically sent from your service management solution, such as the closure email. The message then includes a link to a brief survey where the customer can assess the service. The customer has just experienced the service, so they can clearly remember how this went and can therefore provide concrete feedback.

This measurement method is excellent for determining the Customer Effort Score. This measures the effort a customer felt had to be put in to get their call or request completed. Measuring this perceived effort dovetails with the goal of taking the most customer-oriented approach possible. After all, you are not working to wow the customer. Instead, you want to make it as easy as you can for colleagues to use so that they can focus on their primary tasks.

A high Customer Effort Score (i.e, in the customer’s experience they have to put in a lot of effort to get a solution) should be followed up immediately. If customers can also provide additional information about their score in the survey, it soon becomes clear why the score is high and how to follow it up. Think for instance of comments like ‘I had to explain my problem three times to three different service desk employees.’ The operators in question can be alerted to the importance of a clear problem description.

Continuous measurement becomes truly effective when the results can be traced back to specific services. This requires a clear service catalogue, which you can read more on here.

When to use which measurement method?

Periodic and continuous measurements are suitable for different topics and lead to different insights. In order to select a measurement method, it is important to check which situation applies to your department: Quick polish or complete overhaul?

If you are about to completely overhaul your services, periodic measurement is recommended. It can then serve as a benchmark, so results can help shape the choices made during the change process. A benchmark also ensures that the results of your efforts are visible in a follow-up measurement. The effort is rewarded with improved scores. The results are also an important motivation for service desk employees to keep up a customer-oriented approach. Are your services in order, or have you just completed a change process? A continuous measurement can help you gradually polish your service provision. Constantly receiving feedback from customers can help you quickly implement improvements.

Is the customer always right?

The extent to which you are focused on customer satisfaction also plays a role in selecting the measurement method. Continuously measuring requires discipline from the department: they have to put the results to use throughout the entire year. If customer satisfaction is your most important goal, continuous measurement is a logical choice. Conversely, if you still experience customers as ‘difficult’, a periodic measurement might work better. A complete picture of the service provision from the customer’s perspective can help the department realize the customer should come first.

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Wes Heemskerk



Wes Heemskerk, Service Management Consultant

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