Every Staff Member Can Gather Customer Satisfaction Data

Who Knows Your Customers Best? It’s The Front Line Staff

Gathering Customer Satisfaction Data Every Staff Member A Researcher by Robert Bacal

Last month we discussed the importance of measuring client satisfaction if one is interested in improving service quality. This month we are going to present to you an alternative to written feedback mechanisms that are sometimes complicated to administer and certainly rather costly in terms of the resources needed to make it work.  The approach we are going to discuss focuses on using each and every staff member who interacts with clients in a systematic and organized process to gather client satisfaction information.


Many organizations announce that their employees are their most valuable resources. While this phrase has lost its meaning in many organization, nowhere is it more appropriate than when discussing the gathering of information about client satisfaction levels. While surveys, response cards and the like can play important roles in data gathering, it is the staff that interact with clients every single day who have the best opportunities to gather data, and make sense of it so that service quality can be improved. We are going to take a look at how you might go about using your staff resources for
this purpose.

Advantages of Using Staff as Primary Data Gatherers

Apart from the fact that staff are in every day contact with customers, let’s look at some of the advantages of having staff actively involved in data collection regarding client satisfaction.

  1. Since front line staff deal with clients everyday, they are in the best position to collect, organize and interpret the client comments and feedback.
  2. Involving staff in a systematic way helps ensure that client feedback offered on a daily basis doesn’t get lost forever.
  3.  Involving staff in an ongoing way indicates that a) you are serious about connecting with customers, and b) you respect the wisdom and abilities of your staff. As such it helps focus staff on quality service in a constructive, enabling way.

Starting Principles

To make a staff data gathering process work, we must consider the following:

  1. The data gathering system must be organized so that staff understand what data will be useful and how that data should be elicited from customers.
  2. There must be a system for recording the data in an organized way (check sheets or lists, structured reporting forms, etc).
  3. There must be a forum for the reporting of that data, so that each collector knows that the information they collect is being heard and used.
  4. Data collection MUST be accompanied by action on the data.
  5. Support (e.g. training) needs to be available for any staff that want to improve their skills at eliciting customer perception information (e.g. training in questioning techniques, listening and empathy).

Implementation Steps

1. Groundwork

The process
begins by a focus on customer perceptions and service improvement, even
before anything specific begins. Managers/Leaders can lay this groundwork
by broaching the subject of client perceptions, and service quality, including
references in strategic planning, performance management interviews, etc.
Essentially, the manager needs to build a more client focused culture
before progress can be made.

Beginning Staff Involvement

Staff can
be involved via group discussions or individual meetings. Managers can
begin by asking some or all of the following questions:

How do we
know if our clients are satisfied with our service?

How would
we know if they didn’t?

What do we
need to know to find out about our clients’ perceptions?

The answers
to these questions can be converted into specific questions that staff
can ask clients, as part of the regular client contacts.

Design Your Data Gathering Process

With staff,
determine the questions that are deemed as high priority ones to pose
to clients. In addition, identify how much information you need, who staff
need to ask, and how information should be recorded (keep it simple).

Design Your Data Reporting Process

There must
be ways for staff to be heard regarding the data they collect, and they
must have an opportunity to access the data of others. Written summaries
can be generated, but the more critical part is the discussion that is
integrated with reporting the information.

Design Your Decision-Making/Action Process.

Make sure
that the data collected is used to make decisions regarding service improvement.
Everyone needs to be clear about how the data is going to be handled.
For example, you might follow the following pattern at monthly staff meetings.

Data Summarizing & Reporting


Action discussion/decision-making regarding improvement.

What is important
is that the pattern be followed consistently — no exceptions, and that
time be allocated to the process, even when time is short.

Execute Plan

Evaluate Success

Revise Plan

An Example

Jackie Smothers
is director of a branch that operates a storefront operation, where members
of the public come in for information and service of various sorts. Due
to the nature of the organization, the end of the month is their busiest

Jackie had
several concerns about how the branch operated. First it bothered here
that nobody could really say, with some confidence, how clients viewed
what they did. While she was aware when complaints were registered, she
realized that it was relatively rare that they received compliments, and
nobody could really be sure what their clients liked, and what they didn’t

Jackie started
laying the ground work for involving staff in getting information from
clients in a more systematic and organized way. Her first steps involved
talking more to staff about the importance of continuous improvement and
listening to customers’ concerns. In addition, she decided it would be
a good thing to revisit their role, mission and planning process to make
sure that the client was placed “front and center” in their operation.

Staff seemed
to enjoy the notion of becoming client centered, since, they said, they
often were frustrated themselves with not knowing how they were doing,
or not being able to find more reliable ways to offer satisfactory service.

At a staff
meeting, Jackie introduced the notion that, as a client centered branch,
they really needed to make decisions based not on guesses about their
clients, but on more solid data. She asked staff (including the receptionists,
phone staff, and counselors) how they felt about being involved in getting
that information. Staff reaction was mixed. While most thought it was
a good idea in principle, there were some concerns about how it would
affect each individual.

Some of the
comments and questions that arose included:

It’s a good
idea, but where would we find the time? I wouldn’t know how to even go
about it. I’m just not sure. Well, but what’s the point of getting the
information when it’s the executives that really make the decision? What
can we do, really?

Jackie responded
to these and other concerns by indicating that she felt that, as a group,
they had the resources to figure out a way to get the information and
make use of it so that it didn’t bog down the process; that it seemed
that while they couldn’t do everything on their own, they could focus
on what they COULD control, and that if people felt they needed help in
learning new skills she would do her best to make that available. at the
conclusion of the meeting, Jackie asked that each staff member think about
what kinds of information they would need, and how to go about the process.

In the course
of further discussion (about one hour at each staff meeting), the group
identified specific information they would need to get, and how they would
make sure that any information was shared among all staff. It was decided
that two days each month, staff would ask every fifth customers two questions
regarding their perceptions of service quality. Each staff had an easy
to use tally sheet to record the data. The first month’s questions were
simple: 1) How long did the customer wait (customer estimate)? and 2)
Did the customers find the wait unreasonably long?

Each staff
member took on responsibility for summarizing their findings for discussion
at the regular staff meeting. At the monthly staff meetings twenty minutes
was allocated to the summaries, and twenty five minutes allocated to coming
up with suggestions to improve service in the area of interest. Occasionally,
individual staff would be asked to take responsibility for coming up with
additional suggestions.

Jackie noticed
a few interesting things. First, not only did staff come to meetings with
their summaries of the answers to questions, but they came with more information
not specifically asked for in the questions. It turned out that the mere
fact that staff were showing more interest in client perceptions make
it easier for clients to make constructive suggestions about how to speed
up the process. And, since staff knew that the information they gathered
was going to be used, they seemed to remember things about client perceptions
that they had never remarked upon before.

Through the
process, Jackie and her staff were able to identify that, generally, the
public did not mind waiting five minutes in line, but that at the end
of the month the waits extended to over fifteen minutes at peak times.
The branch decided this was not acceptable and worked towards reducing
waiting times during peak periods. She was pleased to notice that many
of their clients shared considerable praise — something that they had
not heard previously.

Over time,
the process become routine. Several staff asked for some training in phrasing
follow-up questions, and this was made available (several hours of training
were made available).

Jackie found that it was far easier to encourage staff to focus on quality
service by listening to clients, rather than trying to exhort them to
perform according to management set criterion.

Author: Robert Bacal

Leave a Reply