So much has changed in the world of customer satisfaction. Customer advocacy has become a dominant force. Guests want greater personalization and flexibility. Word-of-mouth is gaining influence and hospitality companies have become better listeners. Service recovery is now part of the employee lexicon and companies are making wholesale changes to create better guest experiences. The world of customer satisfaction is vibrant, changing and about to get even more exciting with innovations on the horizon.
Nearly 30 years ago I choose to study customer satisfaction because I believed it was the most critical element in business. Today, it's more important than ever. Listening to customers is now perceived as fundamental to achieving customer loyalty and profitability. Like a consumer advocate, I was motivated to have the customer heard. I believed that everyone was entitled to expect reasonable product performance and acceptable service experiences. It's only fair. But as we all know, satisfying individuals is challenging, especially in the delivery of services. That task, to close the gap between customer satisfaction and the realities of business, has been the focus of my company over the past two decades.
We started Market Metrix by imagining a world where feedback from customers and employees would drive business decisions. In 1996 this thinking had not been widely adopted in some important service industries like hospitality. Some of the reasons for this indifference were the dubious methods of data collection and the uncertainty of results. So we introduced random sampling methods, theory-based scoring, emotions as part of the customer experience, industry benchmarks, and other techniques to add rigor to the art of customer feedback.
Today the landscape has changed dramatically. Social media has galvanized the voice of customers and added transparency. It has added new dimension and color to feedback giving guests an unrestricted place to report their experiences. Natural Language processing allows massive amounts of qualitative data from social media and comments to be measured and better understood. And improved case management systems provide instant service resolution and recovery. These systems alert staff to problems, track progress and even manage follow-up communication with the guest.
But new, emerging technologies will re-define the future of feedback. For example, guest feedback is going to become more of an ongoing conversation with guests. Mobile devices and proximity-based technology will enable relevant and more continuous dialogue with guests, providing bite-sized queries, useful information and customized promotions at just the right moment. Global panels and growing social media networks will provide broader representation and better benchmarking at the local and regional levels. Advances in survey design and interactivity will provide richer, in-depth feedback that will add value and simplify problem-solving.
30 years later, I'm feeling like I chose well. There has been so much progress. Sophisticated feedback practices are commonplace across most service industries. Businesses realize the path to profit is paved by customer satisfaction.
But so many exciting new opportunities remain. Yesterday's progress continues to propel tomorrow's possibilities.
About the Author
Dr. Jonathan Barsky is Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer of Market Metrix, as well as a professor of marketing at University of San Francisco's School of Business and Management.