Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Ensuring the satisfaction of tenants with your housing associations is not only important in terms of the reputation of your set-up, but also a key part of the Government guidelines.
Ultimately a key process in ensuring that you are doing a good job is how you go about measuring that performance. The collection of the data used to record the results and measure the performance is the only real way to look deeply into the process and get an understanding of what is going well and what is going badly.
- A survey of 3 people from a list of 100 isn’t a true representation of the performance of a firm.
Equally, whilst collecting data and reviewing its findings you have to ensure the data is a fair measurement of what is occurring and that the data is not influencing a particular result.
- By wording a question with a bias towards a particular result, you will not get a true representation of how the customer feels towards the service. Finally, it’s important to ensure that the data collected is a true representation of how the feelings of the customer are.
- You’re far more likely to fill in a ‘Very Satisfied’ result for a contractor’s performance if he’s stood in the room, or you know he is going to collect the results.
So how should you be doing these surveys?
It’s all well and good to receive letters of thanks or complaints, or anecdotal feedback from customers or contractors, but it gives no real measurement of performance. Ultimately, what a Housing Association needs to get is good quality data in sufficient numbers, and there are only really 3 ways of getting hold of this data.
1) Postal/Paper Slips/Online Portals
- Low cost.
- It can be filled in or completed in your own time.
- You can give greater opportunity for giving scaled answers by using visual representations
- It is easy to administrate.
- Low response rates.
- Misunderstanding of any questions can’t be explained.
- Poor responses to open-ended questions.
- Tends to be answered by people on the extremes, I.E. very happy or very unhappy.
- People may be unwilling to pay to return the slip, and freepost incurs a degree of cost.
- In terms of online portals, not everyone has access to the internet or a PC.
2) Face to Face
- Extremely productive for open-ended questions.
- Gives the opportunity to build a rapport with your client base and better understand their situation.
- Queries on questions can be answered.
- Takes a great deal of time to carry out surveys using this method.
- Extremely expensive to carry out.
- Can logistically be difficult to carry out.
- Low cost.
- High control of interview standards.
- Easy to ask for ratings using simple scales.
- Quick turnaround.
- Customers can sometimes be difficult to contact via phone.
- Can be tedious for customers if the questionnaires are either too long or too monotonous.
Housing Associations up and down the country use a number of these methods to carry out their surveys, and there is no right or wrong answer to how you carry these out.
The trick to the whole set-up is ensuring that you are maximising the results which you get your hands on.
One effective way of ensuring more postal results are collected is by offering a Freepost service. This can be expensive however and whilst it can increase the number of responses, will still not increase it greatly. Other options include a collection of slips, which can work well in sheltered accommodation, where a drop box can be collected infrequently. Other methods include offering incentives to return forms. I’ve seen methods which include gift vouchers and draws for prizes. However, this once again can increase the costs associated with the collection of your data.
Face-to-face meetings with tenants can be a great way of collecting general feedback from a client base, however, in these face-to-face meetings, whilst the collection of anecdotal information is easier to collect, true raw data to analyse can be difficult. That said... it is important to not ignore anecdotal data. I will talk more about this later.
Telephone interviews are arguably one of the strongest ways of receiving data and can result in superb results. It can be relatively staff intense and is also very much dependent on getting hold of people by phone. It undoubtedly results in a higher response rate, and gives good value for money.
By getting an independent body to carry out your surveys can provide a number of positive results on your surveys.
- Costs – By outsourcing your surveys to an independent company you can achieve great cost reductions. Having to employ people to carry out these surveys, or alternatively, fitting this role within someone else’s remit can lead to high costs. By out sourcing to a firm dedicated to this role you can achieve significant savings.
- Influence – Carrying out surveys in-house can influence the results that you get. By outsourcing to a firm, there will be no influence as there are no ties or connections to your own firm.
- Expertise – A firm which carries out these types of surveys will have training and skills in terms of how these surveys are carried out and a level of skill and understanding of the process can be achieved.
True Independent surveys can give results that carry weight. By having no ties or connections to a firm or its employees, and having no previous knowledge of a customer, or situation, means that each survey is carried out with a fresh face, with the only intention, getting a survey with true data and results.
Someone who takes a survey from an independent stance will not sugarcoat the results. There are no bonuses associated with more good results than bad results. All that is required is a collection of accurate data based on particular fields.
Finally, if the tenants are informed that the surveys are being carried out by an independent firm then they don’t feel pressured to sugarcoat an answer and are more likely to be honest.
When collecting data of any sort, the numerical and raw data is of course important to spot trends. However, it is quite often the anecdotal data, the comments, the feelings and the specific points that can be some of the most important points made within a survey.
Any good survey leaves room for these comments and also has a set-up that looks over these key points.
When conducting a wider survey, you will get a lot more perspectives and opinions on a particular notion or idea; and whilst not all of these will be relevant, or important, the fact is that more outlooks or perspectives may result in an idea, or angle you hadn’t previously taken into account.
Essentially – Whilst comments and notes may be difficult to measure on a graph, they are as important as the 1-10 scores, or the dissatisfied and satisfied results.
So... what do these measurements mean exactly?
I guess we all strive to be that A* student, to get 100%, or be that 10 out of 10 company.
Striving for perfection is important, and frankly should be our goal. However, when working with stats and data, it’s important to take into account a very famous saying.
‘You can keep everyone happy some of the time, and some of the people happy all of the time. BUT... you can’t keep everyone happy all of the time.’
The scores that are achieved in customer satisfaction surveys are used to create a customer satisfaction index or CSI. There is no single definition of what comprises a customer satisfaction index. Some use only the rating given to overall performance. Some use an average of the two key measurements - overall performance and the indication of loyalty. Yet others may bring together a wider basket of issues to form a CSI.
Ultimately by getting a CSI it means you can look at the overall indication of satisfaction with a particular sector.
Equally, you can look at poor results and look to sort out individual cases where issues have arisen.
By using the CSI to monitor your performance, it also gives you ways of monitoring and measuring improvement. A lot of housing associations use the 75-85% threshold of satisfaction as a benchmark for levels of performance. Interestingly, research indicates that satisfaction by percentage isn’t a straight line and more exponential. I.E. its twice as hard to increase from 80-85% than it is from 75-80%.
How to use Customer Satisfaction surveys to the greatest effect
No housing association can truly satisfy its customers unless the full backing of the company and its executives are behind it. Everyone needs to be aware of the goals set out and work towards it.
Recognising areas that are lacking and using these surveys to pick up key point areas which need reviewing is essential.
Not only that, but recognising that a minor increase in score after a considerable amount of work is to be expected. Increasing your score in CSI is harder and harder the further up the scale that you go.
When it comes to eliminating poor scores, don’t be too disappointed if there are occasional blips. One thing that does show up time and time again is, given the opportunity to complain about something, certain people will.
Another thing to take into account with customer satisfaction surveys is that they are simply a snapshot of any moment or given time. People’s views and perceptions change continuously and businesses' abilities to perform also change.
‘You are only as good as your last job’
Therefore, measuring satisfaction must be a continuous job. Continuous monitoring will let you set benchmarks and let you review your own performance over time.
Lastly, updating and evaluating of surveys is paramount. This places considerable onus on the Housing association to design a survey that will accurately show real differences, one survey to another, but also the questionnaire needs to be consistent so there is no dispute about answers differing because of changes to questions.
‘An ill-conceived survey can create biased results that misinform policymakers and clients alike.’
Also, the sample of each survey must be large enough to provide a reliable base and the selection of the sample must mirror earlier surveys so that like is being compared with like.
Developing Action Plans based on Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Spot the area of weakness
It may be that there is an area that is consistently scoring low scores overall, or alternatively, it might be that you have a particular field where you are getting very dissatisfied results to often.
Evaluate and conclude the weakness
Look into the problem and evaluate what is causing the problems to cause such low results.
Create and implement an action plan
Create an action plan to turn around or rectify the lower results.
Make improvements in the area of weakness
Carry out this action plan and attempt to improve the area of weakness.
Survey, measure and evaluate changes
Re-survey and evaluate if the changes have been successful.
Leadline has worked in the field of Customer satisfaction surveys for 14 years and has been working with Housing Associations for the past 7 years. With expert training and constant reviewing of our own processes, we have begun to truly understand the impact that the process has on Housing Associations.
The above points give an idea of the processes we go through on a day-to-day basis to ensure we not only bring the best to our clients, but also bring our best to their clients.