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Controlling Quality By Asking Good Questions

Admittedly, technology has allowed some abuse of the practice of asking questions. Unless you never travel or buy anything, you have surely been assaulted with questionnaires from providers who want you to evaluate your experience with their hotel or airline, or a retail transaction. The invitation may suggests that you will spend only five minutes to complete a questionnaire, and invariably the process takes longer than promised. As a result, many people ignore such questionnaires unless they are extraordinarily happy with the service, or unless they are angry and eager to complain. When this happens, the results of the questionnaire will only record the reactions of the extremists without ever learning about the majority of people who don't have a strong opinion.

In spite of this problem, asking good questions is a very important part of the process of retaining customers. Measuring customer satisfaction is particularly critical in the warehousing business. Many operators don't do a good job of measuring customer satisfaction. As a result, they don't find out that a client is dissatisfied until the level of anger is extreme. At this point, it may be too late to take corrective action.

Fred Reichheld is an expert on the measurement and evaluation of customer loyalty. His 210 page book called The Ultimate Question describes a process for measuring satisfaction and loyalty. His argument is simple and practical. Everybody in a service business needs to get grades that reflect quality of performance. If the questionnaire is poorly written, the results will be of minimal value.

The author describes the single ultimate question that every customer should answer: "How likely is it that you would recommend Company X. to a friend or colleague?". While the questionnaire might include more than one inquiry, that is the only one worthy of close attention.

The best warehouse managers impress upon their customers that quality control is critically important. Simply mailing a questionnaire is not enough. Those who decline to answer should be contacted again, possibly by telephone. Accurate feedback is the only way to measure customer satisfaction.

If you do not have a reliable measurement of customer loyalty, then you need to study Reichheld's book. You may also need support from a marketing expert as you begin the process of implementing the recommendations.


K. B. Ackerman Company
2041 Riverside Drive
Suite 204
Columbus, Ohio 43221
Phone 614-488-3165
Fax 614-488-9243

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