Customer Satisfaction as an Element of Strategic Business Decisions

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1 2 nd UITP International Marketing Conference November 2003, Paris Customer Satisfaction as an Element of Strategic Business Decisions Werner Brög Thomas Kahn Socialdata Institute for Transport and Infrastructure Research GmbH Hans-Graessel-Weg Munich Telephone: +49 / 89 / Telefax: +49 / 89 /

2 CONTENTS Abstract 1 Methods of Customer Satisfaction Surveys First Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company A Second Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company A Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company B Classification of Transport Companies Conclusion Literature

3 LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3 Customer satisfaction survey Structured/exploratory survey Customer satisfaction measuring Diagram 4 Global satisfaction of "Transport Company A" Diagram 5 Customer loyalty of "Transport Company A" Diagram 6 Customer acquisition of "Transport Company A" Diagram 7 Customer loyalty of "Transport Company B" Diagram 8 Customer acquisition of "Transport Company B" Diagram 9 Classification of transportation companies Tab. 1 Structured survey of "Transport Company A" Tab. 2 Deduction of action needs for "Transport Company A" Tab. 3 Deduction of action needs for "Transport Company B"

4 Abstract As with all other market-oriented service organisations, transport companies also have to make sure their services meet the demand and needs of their customers. In order to gain knowledge about the expectations of existing and potentially new customers, satisfaction surveys are increasingly being used. Due to changing conditions, customer satisfaction surveys have gained in significance in the last few years and will become even more important in the years to come: growing competition, financial restrictions and customers growing sensibility for quality drive transport organisations into considering customer satisfaction surveys as an element of strategic business decision-making. In reality, however, different methods measuring customer satisfaction are used which can produce different results. In cases where transport organisations intend to use customer satisfaction surveys as basis for strategic decisions, it is critical to take this aspect into account. Results and recommendations can quickly lead to dubious or even incorrect actions, a situation that could be avoided if different approaches to measuring customer satisfaction were thoroughly discussed. This paper looks at these issues and shows that different methods of measuring within the realm of public transport (PT) can produce different results and consequently can lead to a different set of recommendations for action. The differences are so substantial that they affect management decisions to varying degrees. This means the type of customer satisfaction methodology used could influence further the development of a public transport provider. This paper discusses this issue with examples from the real world and wants to give suggestions how to avoid the problem. For reasons of data protection all examples have been made anonymous. To facilitate discussion only attributes comparable to each other have been chosen.

5 1 Methods of Customer Satisfaction Surveys 1.1 First Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company A Transport Company A caries out a customer satisfaction survey based on a number of predefined attributes. The customer has to evaluate these attributes using a given satisfaction scale. This type of survey does not relate to PT trips per se, but it reflects impressions of the respondent, impressions that are shaped by discriminatory perceptions. In our example the survey turns out well, so that the transport organisation assumes customers are content with the attributes used in the survey. A need for action is not discernible from the results (see Annex 1, Tab.1). A simple examination of the predefined attributes does not reveal any information about the context in which attributes were evaluated, i.e., whether they are important in terms of customer loyalty or acquisition or perhaps overall satisfaction? Often one tries to solve this problem with a superior question concerning a global satisfaction ( On the whole, how content are you with the services provided by this transport organisation? ). It is assumed that the strength of the statistical link between the satisfaction according to individual atributes and global satisfaction reflects the true meaning orsignificance of the attributes. For this reason the survey described above also examined global satisfaction. The results are shown in the portfolio global satisfaction (see Annex 1, Diagram 4). The y-axis gives the evaluation of individual attributes, whereas the x-axis indicates the true significance as derived from the statistical link between individual atributes and global satisfaction. The question now is how one can give recommendations to transport organisation going by the information depicted in the diagram. In order to develop a strategy, the company needs to know whether certain actions are more suitable to customer loyalty or to acquisition. In addition they need to know which kind of action leads to an improvement of satisfaction. This issue is also evident in the above example. Even though the results of the survey are positive, the transport company notes a reduction in the number of passengers. Moreover, using a selection of different indicators, they also note that many customers who had previously given positive evaluations are not satisfied with the company s overal performance. Ascertaining the true significance of individual atributes does not yet give a fully satisfactory answer to these questions. 1

6 1.2 Second Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company A Because of this, a second survey is carried out combining various survey and analysis methods. As we have just seen, a methodology that focuses exclusively on predefined attributes can only supply limited information for action. In order to ascertain this strategically important information, one must take into consideration not only the mobility behaviour of a respondent but also the reasons for using or not using PT (potential analysis). Apart from a structured survey not-related to PT trips, reflecting discriminatory impressions an exploratory survey is proposed. The exploratory survey deals with genuine PT trips coming from a previously conducted mobility survey. In the survey, respondents are asked to report their PT trips based on the concept of trip segments or stages. They are asked to express their satisfaction with respect to the different stages of the trips they made and to give independently, the reasons that affected their evaluations. Stages do not only consist of the actual use of PT, but also of in-between activities such as going to and leaving from a stop or interchanging or just waiting at a stop. The exploratory survey also captures and consults the expert opinion of PT customers. Since both survey methods, structured and exploratory, have their strengths and weaknesses, it was decided to present a combination of the two approaches. In this way, existing as well as potential customers are equally addressed. Using such a combination, each individual satisfaction attribute may be examined in terms of the involved risk of migration and the potential behind it. This information is of great value to any public transport company, as investments are usually made in areas where growing satisfaction leads to an increased customer loyalty and use of PT. 2

7 The following diagram shows the points of intersection of a comprehensive mobility survey linked with customer satisfaction analysis: Diagram 1 Customer satisfaction survey Drawing on these interconnected spheres it is possible, to analyse customer satisfaction from the viewpoint of customer loyalty (risk of migration) and customer acquisition (new potentials). The combination of different surveys and analyses is expanded using a micro-simulation-model that represents the interrelation between satisfaction behaviour - danger of customer loss and potentials. In this context, first a structured survey is conducted, whose conception is nearly similar to the first survey described in section 1.1 and also leads to outputs of similar quality (see Annex 2, Tab.2). With an average satisfaction level of +55 (pertaining to the criteria selected for the example) the evaluation scores slightly lower than the average of the previous survey. A possible reason for the differing satisfaction indexes of individual attributes can be that this survey also considers non-customers, while the first survey only included PT company customers. 3

8 Satisfaction attributes with their corresponding values of customer loss and potentials are described graphicaly in the portfolios customer loyalty and customer acquisition in Annex 3, Diagram 5 and 6. The portfolios customer loyalty and customer acquisition are formed by the satisfaction-index and the risk of migration or the potentials : atributes with a low satisfaction index are located below the satisfaction axis. In both portfolios the arithmetic mean of the satisfaction indices is +55. In addition, the portfolio customer loyalty shows on the y-axis the risk of migration (relating to the actual share of PT). The arithmetic mean is 6%. Attributes indicating a high risk of migration are found on the right hand side. This leads to four classes of attributes: 1) Attributes with a high satisfaction index and a low risk of migration (located in the upper left quadrant / no immediate need for action) 2) Attributes with a high satisfaction index and a high risk of migration (located in the upper right quadrant / risk of customer loss if services do not continue to be satisfactory) 3) Attributes with a low satisfaction index and a low risk of migration (located in the lower left quadrant / below average satisfaction and below average risk of migration) 4) Attributes with a low satisfaction index and a high risk of migration (located in the lower right quadrant with immediate need for action) The portfolio customer acquisition is similarly structured: on the x-axis potential possibilities for development are given. The arithmetic mean is 11%. Re-examining the presentation results from the first customer satisfaction survey of Transport Company A, atribute 8 vehicle cleanliness in the portfolio global satisfaction, located in the upper left quadrant, denotes no immediate need for action. However, the same atribute in the portfolio customer loyalty is located in the quadrant of major priority, and in the portfolio customer acquisition it is indicated that chances are low to gain new customers. 4

9 In contrast, atribute 5 reliability / punctuality is located in the lower right quadrant of both the portfolio global satisfaction (immediate need for action) and customer loyalty. In the portfolio customer acquisition, however, this atribute is outside the lower right quadrant. Depending on whether the transport company wishes to bind existing or gain new customers, a need for immediate action is necessary or not. Atribute 2 comfort of vehicles shows a high relevance regarding global satisfaction, whereas in the differentiated analysis the attribute scores neither above average risk of migration nor does it score above average potential. The only attribute that lies in the quadrant of major priority for both approaches is No. 7 Connections. These examples clearly show that in spite of the use of similar methods of measurement and analysis enormous differences in outcomes can occur regarding satisfaction surveys, which can lead one into false conclusions. The differentiated approach enables PT companies to better assess the objectives of possible measures, something that is crucial to the development of action plans and strategies. Concurrently to carrying out the structured survey, an exploratory survey was implemented. Immediately, one takes note of the fact that the average satisfaction index of the exploratory survey (+28) is lower than that of the structured survey (+55) (see Annex 2, Tab. 2). Although the first three attributes score better in the exploratory survey, the other five attributes fare worse, at least in part. It looks as if the customers are somewhat dissatisfied with the performance of the transport company, as suggested by the structured survey. In order to compare the two surveys with each other, the attributes used in the open exploratory survey have to be allocated to the limited number of attributes used in the structured survey. 5

10 Diagram 2 Structured/exploratory survey The following table lists the most important outputs one obtains from both types of survey when combined: Comparison of satisfaction indices of individual attributes for both surveys Indication of (above average) risks of migration and potentials regarding individual attributes Indication of concrete recommendations for actions regarding individual attributes In the case of Transport Company A, the exploratory survey with a satisfaction level of +28 performed much worse than the structured survey (+55) despite the fact that interviews had been conducted with the same respondents (see Annex 2, Tab. 2). This outcome moderates the positive evaluations given in the previous structured surveys considerably while providing an explanation for the fact that, in spite of a high level of satisfaction, Transport CompanyA registered further customer losses in the first satisfaction analysis. Five out of eight attributes scored worse in the exploratory survey. For these attributes, it can be said that customers practical experience of using PT contributes greatly to a more negative evaluative picture than is suggested by the opinions given in the structured survey. 6

11 When attributes identified in the exploratory survey are assigned to the few attributes of the structured survey, another important discovery is made: merely 50% of the attributes considered relevant by the customers are included in the structured survey as a part of the set of predefined attributes. This means that a standard customer satisfaction survey as described in section 1.1 only takes half of the relevant atributes into account in measuring levels of satisfaction. 2 Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company B Being aware of the need for and the advantages of a survey that distinguishes between customer loyalty and customer acquisition, Transport Company B also caries out a customer satisfaction survey. Yet, the outcome of the structured survey gives rise to concerns as it produces an average level of satisfaction of just +45 (see Annex 4: Portfolios Customer Acquisition, Diagram 7, and Customer Loyalty, Diagram 8). Regarding customer loyalty, atribute No.4 furnishing of stops and No.8 vehicle cleanliness show anbelow average level of satisfaction and an above average risk of migration, which is why they are located in the quadrant of immediate need for action. Consequently, measures to reduce the risk of migration have to be applied - in this case, operational improvements would seem appropriate. As far as the recruitment of new customers is concerned, potentials are low. In comparison to the global satisfaction analysis from section 1.1, neither one of the two attributes is located in the quadrant of immediate need of action. A similar situation applies to atribute No.7 Connections, which is located in the lower right quadrant of both customer loyalty and customer acquisition. Due to the fact that the atribute connections caries a noticeably high potential, the company would act at this point, putting only operational measures into action for improvement. Moreover, just as was the case in section 1.2, an exploratory survey was conducted with the expectation of gaining additional insights. The results of this survey and a comparison with the structured survey is given in Annex 5, Tab. 3. With regard to all attributes the assessment in the exploratory survey is much more accurate and reliable than in the structured survey. This leads one to the conclusion that the actual work done by the transport company is in reality better than the structured survey suggests. In particular with reference to the atributes furnishing of stops and connections, which had been identified as problem areas in the structured survey, it is evident that the true experience of the customers is better than generally assumed. Hence, it is less critical to use operational measures to improve services already seen 7

12 as satisfactory by the customers. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the existing positive performance through effective measures of communication. In principle, the same holds true for vehicle cleanliness. In both surveys the level of satisfaction is below the respective mean, so that in this case additional operational measures should be considered. Knowing this, the exploratory survey has led to moderation of the negative assessment of the structured survey: not the poor performance is the issue of Transport Company B, but the public s general perception of PT (Image). 3 Classification of Transport Companies The examples made it clear that different methodological approaches lead to different results and ultimately to different conclusions and actions. Only a combination of approaches and methods enables a transport company to develop effective strategies of action that also work in the practice. The annex contains diagrams summarising the results of both Transport Companies A and B (see Annex 6, diagram 9). In addition, other practical examples have been included to show that there are three diferent types of transport companies: Companies, where the general assessment is worse than the actual experience Companies, where the actual experiences is worse than the general assessment Companies, where it s touch and go or companies in transition Similar to the already presented Transport Company A also in Transport Company D the image of PT is seen as being clearly beter than it actualy is. In such cases, it is mainly internal measures, that have to be implemented to increase satisfaction. Not just Transport Company B, but also companies E and F perform beter than the general assessment. Here, too, customer satisfaction can be improved simply through communicative action. Company C representsanother type. Results from the structured (+54) and the exploratory survey (+57) are quite similar. Here it is necessary to have a closer look at the direction of change using time series to develop corresponding strategies. The classification above should not be seen as the one and only strategy applicable to all attributes or groups of attributes. Rather, it is necessary to analyse individual attrib- 8

13 utes as to whether it is necessary to invest in information and communication with (potential) customers or in operations (infrastructure, technology, vehicle equipment, etc.). The following diagram sums up the two approaches described in chapter 1 and chapter 2 once more: Diagram 3 Customer satisfaction measuring The combination of structured and exploratory approach and their inclusion into the actual mobility behaviour with the situation for mode choice allows a transport company to arrive at concrete conclusions and thus facilitate the development of strategies of action. 9

14 4 Conclusion A customer oriented service company has to utilise customer satisfaction surveys as basis for measures. It is imperative to define which objectives are associated with the improvement of individual performance attributes (customer loyalty and customer acquisition). On the other hand it is vital to obtain an indication of which measures are suitable to achieving these objectives (communicative of operational measures). Concerning needs for action, conclusions can differ tremendously depending on whether one examines results from customer satisfaction surveys independently or in combination, merging two methodological approaches. The possible substantiality of differences can create a broad spectrum for strategic management decisions, so that more attention has to be given to the type of method or approach used for customer satisfaction surveys. The advantages of a combination of different kinds of surveys and methods are obvious: the distinction between customer loyalty and customer acquisition and the indication of the type of measure to be implemented form a basis for transport companies to develop solid strategies of action that can be realised. 10

15 Literature Werner Brög, Gabriele Ferber: Brennpunkt Kundenorientierung. Chancen und Probleme der Kundenzufriedenheitsuntersuchung. Kongress Nahverkehr 2010 in Linz, 2./3. März 2000 Gabriele Ferber et al: Interaction of Customer satisfaction and Behaviour Development of an Innovative Methodology for Customer Satisfaction Examination (CSE) Paper presented at the 54 th UITP World Congress London, May 2001 Werner Brög, Thomas Kahn: Kundenzufriedenheit im Spannungsfeld zwischen Kundenbindung und Kundengewinnung Fachtagung Messung der Dienstleistungsqualität im ÖPNV der VDV-Akademie in Bonn, 26./27. März 2002 Werner Brög, Thomas Kahn: Customer Satisfaction Surveys for Public Transport Comp a- nies Greater Efficiency through more Demand -Orientated Methods Paper presented at ECOMM, Karlstad, May 2003

16 ANNEX Socialdata

17 Annex 1 First Customer Satisfaction Survey of Transport Company A : Attributive Examination (part) No. Attributes Satisfaction Index *) 1 Availability of seating in vehicles Comfort of vehicles PT network Furnishing of stops Reliability / Punctuality Trip time Connections Vehicle cleanliness + 60 Mean value **) + 58 *) is derived from percentage of positive minus percentage of negative nominations **) related to selected attributes Tab. 1Structured survey of Transport Company A

18 Diagram 4 Global satisfaction of Transport Company A Socialdata

19 Annex 2 Comparison of Exploratory and Structured Survey: Deduction of Action Needs Transport Company A Satisfaction index structured survey Satisfaction index exploratory survey Action needs Potential/ risk of migration Availability of seating in vehicles C M Comfort of vehicles C Network C P Furnishing of stopping points O M Reliability /Punctuality O M P Trip time O P Connections O M P Cleanliness in the vehicles O M Mean Value *) C: Measures in the communicative field P: Above average potential O: Measures in the operational field M: Above average risk of migration *) referring to the selected attributes Tab. 2Deduction of action needs for Transport Company A

20 Annex 3 Diagram 5 Customer loyalty of Transport Company A

21 Diagram 6 Customer acquisition of Transport Company A Socialdata

22 Annex 4 Diagram 7 Customer loyalty of Transport Company B

23 Diagram 8 Customer acquisition of Transport Company B Socialdata

24 Annex 5 Comparison of Exploratory and Structured Survey: Deduction of Action Needs Transport Company B Satisfaction index structured survey Satisfaction index exploratory survey Action needs Potential/ risk of migration Furnishing of stops C M PT Network C P Connections C P Comfort of vehicles C Reliability / Punctuality C M P Availability of seating in vehicles C Vehicle cleanliness O M Trip time C P Mean Value *) C: Measures in the communicative field P: Above average potential O: Measures in the operational field M: Above average risk of migration *) referring to the selected attributes Tab. 3 Deduction of action needs for Transport Company B

25 Annex 6 Diagram 9 Classification of transportation companies

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