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Comments are worth their weight in gold

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 AM


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Comments drive retention, client share expansion, and referrals. Typically 20-30% of customers will respond to surveys if you do it right. 25-50% of those filling out the survey will tell you why you got the ratings you did and what else is on their mind. While rating scale questions are important to quantify their opinions and perceptions, their comments answer the question, “Why?”

If printers expect to deliver outstanding service and product quality, expand client share and drive referrals, they must know why customers gave them high or low ratings so they can either stay the course or shift gears if something is not running right. Managers must look beyond revenue and profit figures and quantify and qualify their position with every customer.

When developing questions, always think with the end in mind. This helps you clarify and focus the customers' comments. Whether it's an annual or a project survey, find the best spot for open-ended or comment boxes. You shouldn't just put “additional comments” wherever they feel its appropriate.

Start open-ended questions with inviting words, such as, “What” or “How.” For example, ask, “What could we do to improve your experience next time?” If it's an annual survey, it might need two or three different open-ended questions that focus on product quality, customer service and breadth of services.

Don't expect all customers to be thrilled. A famous philosopher once said, “Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” In the figure are a few comments from well-run printers that show what you can learn.

When taking actions, follow these steps:

  • Review comment analysis during team meetings.
  • Have a way to follow up with who is addressing the issue.
  • Post positive comments on the corkboard in the lunch room.
  • Reward individual employee praises with a small gift of appreciation.
  • Always thank customers for their thoughts, because all customer feedback is positive.

Taking action promotes more feedback on the next survey, drives closer relationships with customers, and ultimately enhances customer loyalty and retention.


Michael Casey is president and founder of Survey Advantage (www.printers.surveyadvantage.com). He is a strategic partner with NAPL supporting its consulting and research practices, he integrates project surveying with MIS systems and he is an approved supplier for several franchise networks.

Customers would never say these things about you, or at least not to your face
Quotes take weeks instead of days. Printing is always several weeks out. Normally highest cost when compared with others.
I attempted to use your organization a couple years ago, but received no follow-through when I requested a quote. It turned me off to XYZ and now we use a different organization.
I would use your services more if your turnaround time was more in line with outside sources such as ABC.
The Calendar part of the order (months) were printed off center and looks pretty bad. The assembly people should have noticed that the months were not centered on the page.

Source: Actual customer comments from surveys conducted by well run printers