A lot of businesses claim to be customer-centric. Far fewer back their claim with customer surveys designed to gather feedback on customer satisfaction. Even fewer still take their results and use them to improve performance. Brother International is one of those businesses that uses surveys to ask their customers where they can improve, then actually implements the suggestions.
The gear motor division of Brother began surveying customers in December 2014 to identify areas of improvement and to drive growth. Gear motors are sold to OEMS and distributors of a wide variety of products including conveyors, material handling equipment, industrial ice machines and even slushy machines.
Brother considered several research vendors as well as internal software and online tools such as Survey Monkey, along with marketing agency Winsby. "Winsby had the best analytics and experience in the industry," said Peter Ruggeri, who was the customer service manager for Brother Gear Motors when the survey process began.
A sampling of customers is contacted via telephone each month to gather feedback on key buying factors, such as ease of doing business, price, delivery, quality, technical expertise, and even billing issues. In addition, they ask a question that forms the basis of the company's Net Promoter Score® (NPS®): How likely are you to recommend Brother to friends and colleagues? Responses are based on a 0-10 scale.
NPS® measures loyalty between a provider and their customers. "The Net Promoter Score® allows a company to compare itself to its competitors. The methodology is so widespread that there is a baseline for any industry," said Debbie Frakes, managing director of Winsby.
Customers that rate the company at 6 or below are negative scores and considered detractors, while those who rate the company at 7 or 8 are neutral, and those who provide a score of 9 or 10 are promoters, with positive scores. The percentage of negative scores is subtracted from the percentage of positive ones to reveal a score between -100 and 100.
"We find that the survey sample is much better with phone surveys," added Frakes. "We have tested surveys via email, and we often see response rates below 2%. Plus, the respondents are invariably wanting to complain, so you don't see a good cross section for the business without phone surveys."
Brother doesn't just review the survey results, they analyze them and act. The survey results are a key part of a voice of the customer program that has become ingrained in all aspects of the company's culture.
Metrics are shared monthly with the vice president of Gear Motor Business and reported to the president at quarterly strategic review meetings. "If we notice a downward trend, we dive deeper into that metric to determine what the issues are," noted Ruggeri.
For example, Brother determined there was a direct correlation between its scores for the on-time delivery question and the NPS® Score. If customers were satisfied with delivery, the NPS® Score for the month was good. If customers were not satisfied with delivery, the score would reflect their unhappiness with this metric.
By taking a closer look at delivery, Brother determined that one of their customers gave them a rating for on time delivery that was below average. "We worked with that customer to establish a system that would allow us to maintain the correct parts inventory to meet the customer's needs," added Ruggeri.
The comments they receive from the surveys help them focus on solving any problems that customers express: "Send personal contacts instead of blind emails." Brother took this feedback and developed an SMS text system and redesigned their acknowledgment process.
"The quality of product is excellent. The gear motors last forever. Along with the good customer service, the experience has been very good." "The online blanket ordering and going online to release the orders make the buying process quick and easy." "Love the sales rep, Schyler Kaminski. I can reach him in an instant and he gets back to me quick. I feel like a valued customer."
An online portal makes it easy to access survey results in real time for a selected time period. The results are shown both with numbers and in graphs or pie charts. Individual surveys can be downloaded in a PDF format.
Brother's results show that being proactive works. The Brother score was well above average to start and by focusing on customer feedback, they have improved their score by 30% in four years. Now, their score is considered exceptional: "Brother's score is in the top 5% of all the manufacturers we work with," notes Frakes. Their customer retention score is now 99.9%. As for reliability, significant correlations between the NPS® and business trends have given Ruggeri "100% confidence" in the results.
Not surprisingly, he gives Winsby high marks. "I would recommend them: 10 out of 10 on the NPS® question."