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Basic Methods to Get Feed Back From Customers by Carter Namara,MBA,Ph.d

Basic Methods to Get Feed Back From Customers by Carter Namara,MBA,Ph.d

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Published by: Kadek Brahmashiro Wididana on Aug 19, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Basic Methods to Get Feedback from Customers
 
Written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhDFar too often, we think we know what our customers think and want because -- well, we just know, that'sall. Wrong! Businesses can't be successful if they don't continue to meet the needs of their customers.Period. There should be few activities as important as finding out what your customers want for productsand services and finding out what they think of yours. Fortunately, there are a variety of practicalmethods that businesses can use to feedback from customers.The methods you choose and how you use them depend on what the type of feedback that you wantfrom customers, for example, to find out their needs in products and services, what they think about yourproducts and services, etc.
Employees 
-- Your employees of usually the people who interact the most with your customers. Ask them about products and services that customers are asking for. Ask employees about what thecustomers complain about.
Comment Cards 
 
-- Provide brief, half-page comment cards on which they can answer basic questionssuch as: Were you satisfied with our services? How could we provide the perfect services? Are there anyservices you'd like to see that don't exist yet?
Competition 
-- What is your competition selling? Ask people who shop there. Many people don't noticesales or major items in stores. Start coaching those around you to notice what's going on with yourcompetition. (SeeCompetitive Analysis.)
Customers 
--
One of the best ways to find out what customers want is to ask them. Talk to them whenthey visit your facility or you visit theirs. (SeeQuestioningandListening.)
Documentation and Records 
-- Notice what customers are buying and not buying from you. If youalready know what customers are buying, etc., then is this written down somewhere? It should be so thatyou don't forget, particularly during times of stress or when trying to train personnel to help you out.
Focus Groups 
-- Focus groups are usually 8-10 people that you gather to get their impressions of aproduct or service or an idea. (SeeFocus Groups.)
Surveys by Mail 
-- You might hate answering these things, but plenty of people don't -- and will fill oursurveys especially if they get something in return. Promise them a discount if they return the completedform to your facility. (SeeSurvey Design.)
Telephone Surveys 
-- Hire summer students or part-time people for a few days every six months to dotelephone surveys. (SeeSurvey Design.)
FOCUS GROUP
Focus groups are a powerful means to evaluate services or test new ideas. Basically, focus groups areinterviews, but of 6-10 people at the same time in the same group. One can get a great deal of information during a focus group session.
Preparing for Session
 1.
Identify the major objective of the meeting.
2.
Carefully develop fix to six questions (see below).
 3.
Plan your session (see below).
 4.
Call potential members to invite them to the meeting.
Send them a follow-up invitation with aproposed agenda, session time and list of questions the group will discuss. Plan to provide a copy of thereport from the session to each member and let them know you will do this.5.
 About three days before the session, call each member to remind them to attend.
 
Developing Questions
 1.
Develop five to six questions 
- Session should last one to 1.5 hours -- in this time, one can ask atmost five or six questions.2.
 Always first ask yourself what problem or need will be addressed by the information 
gathered during the session, e.g., examine if a new service or idea will work, further understand how aprogram is failing, etc.3.
Focus groups are basically multiple interviews.
Therefore, many of the same guidelines forconducting focus groups are similar to conducting interviews (see theBasics of Conducting Interviews
 
).
 
Planning the Session
1.
Scheduling 
- Plan meetings to be one to 1.5 hours long. Over lunch seems to be a very good time forother to find time to attend.2.
Setting and Refreshments 
- Hold sessions in a conference room, or other setting with adequate airflow and lighting. Configure chairs so that all members can see each other. Provide name tags formembers, as well. Provide refreshments, especially box lunches if the session is held over lunch.3.
Ground Rules 
- It's critical that all members participate as much as possible, yet the session movealong while generating useful information. Because the session is often a one-time occurrence, it's usefulto have a few, short ground rules that sustain participation, yet do so with focus. Consider the followingthree ground rules: a) keep focused, b) maintain momentum and c) get closure on questions.4.
 Agenda 
- Consider the following agenda: welcome, review of agenda, review of goal of the meeting,review of ground rules, introductions, questions and answers, wrap up.5.
Membership 
- Focus groups are usually conducted with 6-10 members who have some similarnature, e.g., similar age group, status in a program, etc. Select members who are likely to beparticipative and reflective. Attempt to select members who don't know each other.6.
Plan to record the session with either an audio or audio-video recorder.
Don't count on yourmemory. If this isn't practical, involve a co-facilitator who is there to take notes.
Facilitating the Session
 1.
Major goal of facilitation is collecting useful information to meet goal of meeting.
2.
Introduce yourself and the co-facilitator, if used.
3.
Explain the means to record the session.
 4.
Carry out the agenda 
- (See "agenda" above).5.
Carefully word each question 
before that question is addressed by the group. Allow the group afew minutes for each member to carefully record their answers. Then, facilitate discussion around theanswers to each question, one at a time.6.
 After each question is answered, carefully reflect back a summary of what you heard (the note taker may do this).
 7.
Ensure even participation.
If one or two people are dominating the meeting, then call on others.Consider using a round- table approach, including going in one direction around the table, giving eachperson a minute to answer the question. If the domination persists, note it to the group and ask for ideasabout how the participation can be increased.8.
Closing the session 
- Tell members that they will receive a copy of the report generated from theiranswers, thank them for coming, and adjourn the meeting.
Immediately After Session
 1.
Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the session.
2.
Make any notes on your written notes 
, e.g., to clarify any scratching, ensure pages arenumbered, fill out any notes that don't make senses, eta.3.
Write down any observations made during the session.
For example, where did the sessionoccur and when, what was the nature of participation in the group? Were there any surprises during thesession? Did the tape recorder break?
 
HOW TO RUN A FOCUS GROUP.
Focus Group Meetings provide an excellent forum for customer service evaluation and feedback. Theseinformal meetings impress customers, internal and external, because they feel their opinions are beingtaken seriously. By conducting a Focus Group you send a powerful message to your clients about yourcommitment to excellence in service delivery.It is important that the Focus Group should be a positive experience. Progress will not be achieved if itdegenerates into a "bun fight". If customers have a positive experience then they will be pleased toprovide feedback on future occasions. You may like to invite selected members of your staff to sit in on the meeting. Exposure to customers isespecially useful for frontline staff. Do not flood the meeting with your staff otherwise the customers willfeel intimidated.Follow these steps to ensure a successful outcome: 1. Begin the Focus Group by providing you visitors with coffee and tea PLUS some nice biscuits or cakes.Food usually gets people into a positive mood and creates informal interaction before the group sessionbegins.2. Open the meeting by thanking people for their attendance. Clearly state the reason for the meeting. You might care to use words like these:"Thank you for making your time available to attend our FocusGroup. The purpose of this meeting is to obtain your feedback on our service delivery and to seek suggestions on ways inwhich this service can be improved."3. Ask the participants:"What things do you like about the service that we provide?"By asking this question you get the meeting off to a positive start and people do not feel threatened bybeing asked to provide positive comments. Make a note of the comments that you receive as you canpass on this good news to your team at the end of the meeting.4. Ask the participants:"I would now welcome your suggestions on ways in which wecan improve our service to you".NOTE: Do not enter into debate over the suggestions. Your role is to LISTEN and gather information. Donot seek to justify your position or explain why these suggestions can't be acted upon etc.5. Close the Focus Group by thanking the participants for attending. Let them know that their commentsare taken seriously and that you will write to them in a week or so to let them know what action hasbeen taken as a result of the meeting.It may be appropriate before or after the meeting to introduce clients to new products or services.

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