To ‘wow’ your customers consistently, you need to know how to measure and improve your customer satisfaction work system.

How to Measure and Improve Your Customer Satisfaction Work System

Too many organizations take customer satisfaction, let alone customer amazement, for granted. They will tell you that it is important to exceed customer expectations, but what does reality say?

When you look at how one measures customer satisfaction (or doesn’t measure), do they really measure excellence? How effective is your customer satisfaction work system? How do you measure and improve your customer satisfaction work system?

Too few companies formally define the key requirements of their customers. Even worse, fewer regularly engage their customers to help the organization improve its processes.

Most of the time, you will realize that the customer amazement message is much more ‘talk’ than ‘walk.’ Additionally, we tend to essentially ignore our internal customers – our employees. Often, we do this to the point where one could consider them to be ‘forgotten customers.’

LEARN MORE: How Great are Your Work Systems?

How Do You Know What It Takes to Amaze Your Customers?

Do you have a great customer satisfaction work system? Too many leaders assume that they know what their customers want. They rely on sales figures to let them if their customers are happy or not.

Is internal customer satisfaction the true driver of external customer delight? Do you mistakenly believe that external customer amazement is possible even when your employees are dissatisfied?

Organizations who are serious about operational excellence don’t take internal or external customer satisfaction for granted. They use multiple approaches to measure both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Plus, improvement process designs include key internal and external customers on a regular basis. Finally, efforts are made at least annually to improve the various customer satisfaction work system approaches.

Who are your key customers?

Who are your key customers? It sounds like an easy question doesn’t it. In fact, the answer seems obvious. It’s the people who spend money for our goods or services. While that answer may be right, a simple answer may not the best one. Any given organization has several types of customers. However, do they recognize that fact or not?

Great organizations segment their customers in order to better define their customers. Some go even further and define their key stakeholders. How do you define those groups that hold a stake in the success or failure of the enterprise?

In order to raise your levels of customer delight to higher and higher levels, you must first define your key customer segments and stakeholders.

Do you really want to sustain great results over time? If so, it is important that everyone in your organization knows what each customer group needs. To what degree have you defined your key customer segments?

Do you know how customer needs differ in importance between segments? What percentage of your workforce spends time with their external customers? Who are your key customers? How do you determine if you give them what they really want and value?

How connected to your customers are you?

I have worked in companies where I did not even know who the customers of the products we made were, other than to know that they were the people that bought our products. Later in my career, I had the chance to work in organizations where all employees would interact to some degree with their external customers. I saw the power that comes with strong customer connections.

Another insight of mine is that customer service quality increases as the amount of contact between each employee and each customer group increases. I repeatedly see a direct correlation between the percent of time employees spend with customers and the level of customer service.

One reason more time leads to higher service is that we can attach a name and face to the ‘customer’ label. By the reactions on their faces, we can better understand their likes and dislikes.

High performance organizations spend lots of time with their customers. They install listening posts to increase the percent of time that EACH EMPLOYEE spends with different customer groups.

For example, key face-to-face listening posts that most high performing companies use include focus group participation, planning involvement, and product and service development sessions. Making regular visits to both the customer’s location and in-house, and point of purchase relationship building, are also consistent system features.

LEARN MORE: Measuring Process Improvement Effectiveness

What do your customers really want?

How does your company decide what products and services its customers really want? Do you use focus groups and surveys? Do you observe your customers in the field as they buy your product or make purchase decisions that involve it?

There are a variety of ways to determine customer requirements. However, too few companies use more than simply their own opinions to gauge customer satisfaction.

That’s right. Many decisions about what the customer wants are made in meeting rooms. Leaders simply review written summaries of customer meetings or discuss what they think the customer wants. How do you know what your customers really want?

Great companies use a host of fact-based approaches to create a list of possible customer wants. They systematically prioritize those wants.Then, they convert ‘high value’ wants into product and service features.

There is recognition that different customer segments expect different things from the products and services they purchase. Leaders place a high degree of value on the use of fact-based approaches to determine how these requirements differ.

How does your customer satisfaction work system define customer requirements?

The example tables and lists on this web page give you several tools that make up an effective customer satisfaction work system. One tool I include is the customer requirements definition blueprint.

Another key improvement you can make is to simply increase the number of times you touch your customers and allow them to touch you back over a given period of time. By increasing the number of customer touches, you get more opportunities to observe them, listen to them, and measure their levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Plus, you can employ the use of several mechanisms to stay in touch with the customer. In doing so, you can obtain data from a variety of sources. You can compare the results of such research, and look for commonalities across different data collection mediums.

The patterns that appear most often reflect the requirements your customers consider to be the most important. If you do choose to use a variety of approaches, make sure that you pull them all together into a listening post summary table. This practice helps you invest your customer research time and money in the right places.

Do you treat your internal and external customers differently?

One of the workshops that I like to facilitate focuses on the forgotten customers. In other words, your internal customers. When you look across the ten work systems, you might notice that I do not distinguish between internal and external customers.

The need to define customer requirements and measure levels of customer amazement (more than satisfaction) and dissatisfaction are just as key with this group. I consider both groups to be equally important and essentially the same.

It is true that their needs are different. This does not mean, however, that you should spend more effort, or use better approaches, with one group versus the other.

You need to meet and exceed the key needs of both customer types in order to sustain organizational success over time. Neglect one group, and your performance will eventually falter.

Do you judge customer importance by the time and money that you invest in one group versus the other? If so, I think you will find that in most cases the level of investment is greater for the external customer group.

This may seem logical, since the external group gives your organization money. However, internal customers either make money or lose money for you, as well.

If we want to take our organizations to a higher level of performance, we might really want to question this investment difference. It is difficult to realize and sustain high levels of external customer satisfaction unless you realize and sustain high levels of internal customer satisfaction first. Do you share this belief?

How do you measure customer satisfaction?

Most organizations use surveys to measure customer satisfaction, if they measure customer satisfaction at all. When an organization uses customer satisfaction surveys, it is much more typical to only measure external customer satisfaction. Internal customer satisfaction is often taken for granted.

Typically, most companies track customer complaints to measure customer dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of those customers with unmet expectations actually make the effort to tell the organization about it. Many estimate this percentage to be as low as 10%.

High performance organizations use a balanced scorecard approach to measure internal and external customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. For example, such a scorecard might measure satisfaction in four dimensions. You can use a four-part, survey-driven index to actually assess satisfaction for both customer groups. The index is an average of survey results from four different questions.

LEARN MORE: How to Measure and Improve Your Measurement Work System

How to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction Work System

Ten Ways to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction Work System

How can Great Systems help you improve your customer satisfaction work system?

For over forty years, I have been involved with designing internal and external customer satisfaction systems in a variety of different companies and business arenas. My experiences have helped me discover value added, simple ways to set up manual and digital systems to measure customer satisfaction.

I have also found best practices to create internal employee surveys that link to the annual planning process. I can also help you reduce customer complaints and help your organization better define and exceed the key requirements of your customers.

Failing to hear from your customers as often as you should is the primary power restrictor for the customer satisfaction work system. Also, try to find effective ways to manage and improve the various listening posts you use to help you achieve higher levels of business performance.

Finally, use a customer satisfaction scorecard to look at multiple dimensions of customer satisfaction performance.

Additional Customer Satisfaction Work System Improvement Help

Above, you will see ten steps to help improve your customer satisfaction work system. To learn more about the customer satisfaction work system improvement tools that I offer, please send me an e-mail at

EXPLORE MORE: BUY my Pursuing Process Excellence workbook at

How to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction Work System workshop – This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals. First, you will learn how to effectively define your key customer segments and the requirements of those segments.

Second, you will explore best practice approaches to measure and improve customer satisfaction. Third, your leadership team will make key choices as to how to improve your existing customer satisfaction system for better results.

Please note that this workshop focuses on both internal and external customer groups. I operate from the perspective that internal customer satisfaction must be improved in order to increase external customer satisfaction levels.