In my December blog I touched on customer feedback and understanding how to translate this feedback into action. It is important to analyze variation in customer feedback to fully understand how customers feel. For example, if your customers rate you a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best), do your customer ratings range from 6 to 8 or do they range from 4 to 10? What would you do with this information?

First, segmentation of customer feedback is critical. But before you can slice and dice all the data, you need to figure out what information needs to be gathered to allow for meaningful ‘slicing and dicing.’ Age, demographic, location, product usage, the list can become quite unwieldy if no pre-work has been done. In most cases, one size does not fit all. Before you launch into a huge customer survey, defining your ‘slice and dice’ variables is critical or all you will end up with is a bunch of data. Sort of like a bunch of grapes. As we learned from Kaj Ahlmann at the iSixSigma Live Summit, you’ve got to have better sorting than “green” and “purple” to make a fine glass of Six Sigma wine.

Once you’ve been able to appropriately segment your feedback, you can start looking at the satisfaction level of various groups and identify if ratings “within and between” various segments are the same or statistically different. Once you have great segmentation and analysis, then the hard part begins – answering the following questions . . .

  • Which process drives the customer satisfaction metric that you are evaluating?
  • What is the variation in the process?
  • Is the variation in the process correlated to the variation in customer satisfaction?

If the process is stable but the customer feedback has lots of variation, there is most likely another variable that may be driving satisfaction or dissatisfaction. If the process has a lot of variation, it is worth exploring to see if the process variation is indeed driving variation in customer satisfaction.

Soon it may become clear that there are two types of process issues that are reflected in the satisfaction levels. Some may involve processes that have little variation but clearly need to move up a notch to improve satisfaction. On the other hand, feedback may show a large process variation (resulting in scores of 4 to 10). This feedback is interesting because it identifies a small group of customers that are highly satisfied (those providing a 10 rating). All else being equal, should you firstfocus on the process that requires reduction in variationor take a good process (little variation) and try to move it up a couple of notches?

In this particular example, I’d pick the process that has the most variation and set an objective to reduce the variation using best process performance as the target mean. The reason I picked this approach is that the process has already proven its ability to satisfy at a ’10’ level so I already have data related to what a ’10’ performance looks (and feels) like to the customer. If the process has little variation and customer ratings range from 6 to 8, trying to define what a ’10’ may feel like to the customer will require further research and customer feedback to determine the process improvement target (worth pursuing at a later time).

Some of you out there may agree or disagree with this approach. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

The one thing that I think we can all agree on is that when faced with a ‘bunch’ of stuff to improve, we should try to ‘pick’ the types of things that can make the biggest difference to our customer and go for it. The only bad choice is to not make a choice and do nothing. And when you do nothing your Grapes of W.O.W. will surely turn into Sour Grapes.

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