Client contentment Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Ensuring customer satisfaction is the key to any company’s growth, says Chuck Rotuno.

Since OEConnection’s inception in 2000, the president and CEO has formulated procedures to gauge and refine the client satisfaction rate at the automotive technology company.

“The more data you collect, the more you listen to your customers, the better off you will be,” Rotuno says.

By using client feedback on a daily basis, Rotuno continues to grow OEConnection, which this year expects to increase its staff of 185 to more than 200 and expand its customer list of 13,000 dealerships and 14 automobile makers.

Smart Business spoke with Rotuno about how to ensure customer satisfaction.

Q. How do you measure customer satisfaction?

We do formal surveys annually with our customers on product satisfaction to make sure we understand the overall satisfaction with products, their utilization, how often they’re being used, our overall list of things we can do better.

Try to listen to the customer. Try to identify enhancements.

On a weekly basis in our customer care organization, we perform surveys with our existing customers to make sure our service organization is performing to a level that meets their expectations.

One of the key questions is, would they recommend our services and solutions to somebody else? Another one is, are they getting enough personalized assistance? At the end of the day, customers expect a level of care and support that is very important.

It’s understanding the quality of your service on a regular basis, how they feel about your solution, would they recommend you to someone else.

Q. How often do you review customer satisfaction and feedback?

Continually is the only answer. We like to believe our customer satisfaction process is a continuum in every way we interface with a customer.

That can be in a lot of different ways. Anytime you touch a customer, you have to start with, do they like you, first, and are they getting value out of what you’re doing.

We have sales reps, who call upon customers. They’re in the field; they’re on the phone.

They’re constantly measuring satisfaction and giving feedback.

When they’re generally trying to pitch or sell something else, they start with, ‘Hey, I see you’re a subscriber with one application. How is that going for you? Do you like it? Let’s talk about what else we can do for you.’

Our product marketing organization is constantly surveying users for what’s next. What else can we do?

It’s really a day-to-day process. You can never have too much feedback. If customers give you a lot of feedback, you respond to the feedback by continually enhancing your product and people continue to buy it, then I think you have all of the elements of a successful initiative.

The worst thing you can do is do a survey or ask somebody what they think and then ignore them. That doesn’t mean we implement every suggestion you get from customers. But we clearly listen and understand, and if the evidence supports that there’s an opportunity to improve, we act upon it.

My recommendation would be to analyze the feedback and determine what actions need to be taken to address the items in order of importance.

Q. How do you tie customer satisfaction into the overall growth plan of a company?

It ties in by the strategy that with greater customer satisfaction comes a greater likelihood of additional purchase behavior. We’ve set seven key strategic objectives as a company, and I don’t have a problem sharing them because I think it’s all logical. We have three financial objectives: revenue, earning and cash flow growth. We have four nonfinancial objectives that we measure religiously because they’re the key. They are customer retention, customer satisfaction, associate retention and associate satisfaction.

At the end of the day, having happy employees and happy customers who are using your products is pretty much a winning formula. I think any company out there can make it that simple and succeed.

Q. What should company leaders keep in mind when it comes to measuring customer and employee satisfaction?

Continuous improvement. Measuring where you stand on a metric like customer satisfaction or associate satisfaction is a touch point, but it’s what you do with the data to continually improve.

So if we have an associate satisfaction survey that highlights a particular area or concern, what are we doing to improve upon that, and then how do we measure progress. That’s an important element.

We measure the progress a couple ways: follow-up surveys with the associates, informal focus groups. For example, ‘We heard you say in the last associate survey that we’re not doing enough on internal training. Here are some of the things we’ve done. Here are some of the things we’re thinking about doing. What do you think?’

HOW TO REACH: OEConnection, (888) 776-5792 or www.oeconnection.com