Customer Surveys Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story

Last week I read that the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) Airport had been named the best large airport in North America (and #3 in the world) for customer service quality. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I felt some pride that our hometown airport did so well in this survey. But I also saw something I didn’t like with the survey.

It’s missing something.

I have spent more time in airports than I like to think about. I know some of them almost too well. And their quality of customer experience varies widely. The quirky little airport in Key West represents one end of the spectrum. And though our airport here in Minneapolis is a good airport, it’s still not even close to my favorite. The top US airport in my book is in Charlotte, NC. On my first visit there I was thrilled. And I’ve never been disappointed since.

So something is missing in the survey I read about. Because the Charlotte airport wasn’t even mentioned. And it should have been because I’ve seen the effect it has on people. Every time I’ve been there I’ve observed people. They sit in the rocking chairs and relax. They converse. They connect. They enjoy the soothing music coming from the piano which sits in the center of it all. They have experiences that you typically do not associate with a major airport. And that’s because someone at the Charlotte airport decided that’s what they their customers to experience.

I’m not saying this survey isn’t valid or that it holds no value. I’m sure it does. But I know, from direct experience, that it missed something. And I’d bet there are thousands of other travelers who would agree with me.

The key words in the above sentence are “direct experience”. The best information you can get about what your customers want from you (and think of you) is when you get it directly from them. Surveys can help but they can’t beat direct contact with your customers.

As you look for ways to improve your customer service, start by asking yourself how you can get direct, open and frequent feedback from your customers.  How can you connect with them on a regular basis in a way that does not inconvenience them? And make sure both employees and management are involved in this. This shows customers and staff that management is serious about getting direct feedback.

Here’s a suggestion to get you started. At your next staff meeting, ask your people to help. Brainstorm at least 10 different ways you can reach out and touch your customers in ways that build relationships and open the channels of communication. Pick three of these ideas and put them into action. Then keep track of what customers tell you. Keep finding new ways to engage with your customers and see what happens. I think you’ll like the result.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz