The role of customer satisfaction in business is undisputed. Businesses exist because they satisfy a customers wants and needs by delivering products and services for a profit. Without satisfied customers, businesses fail. Yet, despite its importance, predicting customer satisfaction is surprisingly hard to do. There has got to be a better, less dynamic, variable that accounts for satisfaction and that is standard across businesses.
That universal variable is personal responsibility. Customer satisfaction will be higher in an organization where employees have a greater sense of personal responsibility for the customer’s satisfaction. So how would we measure this variable? How does it differ from fault? How can a business leverage this variable?
To answer these questions, I’m separating the topics into two blog posts. Here I’ll talk about personal responsibility and the distinction between fault and responsibility. In my next post, I’ll share the question that each individual in your organization should be asking to build a culture of responsibility and how this transforms any company to be more relational.
The variable that you should use as an indicator of customer satisfaction is personal responsibility. Measuring personal responsibility is an inexact science at best, but if we get creative there is a way we can gauge to what extent individuals within the company view their efforts as being responsible for customer satisfaction.
Imagine a company survey that asked employees to fill out a pie chart assigning customer satisfaction responsibility to each department. In this company there are four departments: sales, service, operations and administration. If each department viewed their efforts as equally responsible for customer satisfaction each would draw a perfectly weighted pie divided into four neat pieces. In other words, each department when asked independent of the others, decided that they were only 25% responsible for the customer’s satisfaction.
But imagine a company where the sales department weighed themselves as 60% responsible with the other departments sharing the remaining 40%. Service weighed their portion at 75%. Operations similarly put their responsibility as 65% of the pie. Administration viewed their role as 85% responsible for customer satisfaction. For purposes of our “Personal Responsibility Metric” we don’t care how each department rated the others. We only care how each department weighed itself. In this company the totals don’t add up to 100%. They add up to 285%.
It is safe to say the the company where individuals view their roles as more responsible for customer satisfaction will enjoy higher satisfaction ratings among actual customers.
By contrast, a business where each department thinks customer satisfaction is someone else’s responsibility cannot expect to find many satisfied customers in real life.
Fault vS Responsibility
It’s important to note we aren’t measuring fault. Fault by nature is error-centric, where responsibility is solution-centric. There’s a saying, “If someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, it isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility.” This perfectly highlights the contrast between two terms that are often used interchangeably.
Don’t measure customer satisfaction on the basis of fault or an employee’s ability to do their job; this doesn’t work. I’ve experienced skilled employees who’ve done their jobs well but left me feeling unsatisfied as a customer. One of our clients experienced the cost of a dissatisfied customer when a $50,000 contract was cancelled. In the meeting to determine what went wrong, we heard mostly fault-finding. Everyone was looking for an individual or process to blame for the customer cancellation. But there was no silver bullet. In the end there was just a string of instances where everyone viewed customer satisfaction as someone else’s responsibility.
The organization where fault finding is the norm — though it is important to identify errors — is ultimately trying to avoid disappointing customers over thinking of proactive ways to satisfy them.
The Role of Culture
How then does a company leverage personal responsibility to improve overall customer satisfaction? Through the culture. Without a culture of personal responsibility, most businesses will default to fault finding in a crisis. This is reactive and toxic to a healthy team. In my next blog post, I’ll give you a very tangible question that everyone in your company should be asking to build a culture of personal responsibility. And I’ll show you how this transforms even the most transactional encounters with customers into opportunities for highly personal relationships with your company.