Aug 29

Knowing Where You Stand

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

At Merck Thailand, we used to have a vision and a mission statement where the satisfaction of employees as well as customers was explicitly mentioned. In order to know where we are standing regarding the progress of the implementation of our mission and vision, we decided to carry out every six months an Employee Satisfaction Survey  and a Customer Satisfaction Survey.

By the way, let me emphasize at this stage that our CareGuys – Blog is all about sharing experiences, not about academic write-ups. You might have noticed that I am frequently citing examples or describing experiences from my work at Merck. This is not because I want to promote Merck, but simply, because I have spent all my working life at Merck, and therefore, my working experiences originate from there. I am no longer associated with Merck in whichever way, except, of course, for the many wonderful colleagues and friends I have met over  there  over so many years.

I still remember what was the trigger for the first ever Customer Satisfaction Survey at Merck Thailand about 15 years ago. More and more of our sales representatives had reported that our customers and even the sales representatives themselves found it difficult to phone our office. After lengthy internal discussions whether the capacity of our telephone system is adequate or not, we decided to carry out a Customer Satisfaction Survey. We prepared about a dozen questions and achieved a good score in the replies from our customers, except one question: reachability of our office via phone. It was a clear thumbs down response from the majority of our customers. It showed that even in a soft culture like Thailand people will express their dissatisfaction. Whatever the problem is, a survey can help shed light on the subject. Knowing that it is crucial to act on the findings of the survey, we took the decision to invest in a state of the art new telephone equipment and system. This solved our communication problem.

Later on, when we added the employees in our mission and vision statements (originally, both contained only our customers), we decided to implement Employee Satisfaction Surveys or Employee Caring Surveys as we called them. This was in line with the old saying “You can’t manage what you don’t   measure”. Furthermore, there are numerous studies that have proven the link between employee satisfaction  and customer satisfaction while, at the same time, it has been determined that an increase in customer satisfaction leads to increased revenues.

While the Customer Satisfaction Survey consisted only of about  a dozen questions on a one page sheet (if you make the questionnaire too long, customers won’t respond), our Employee Caring Survey was much more comprehensive. It took the employees 45 – 60 minutes to answer our survey. However, I would like to emphasize that this is time well spent to give the Management every six months a feedback where the company and its Leadership Team stand.

I am a big believer in obtaining regular feedback from employees and customers in order to get the company’s performance assessed.

With the surveys that we carried out twice a year at Merck Thailand, we have made very good experiences. I was always happy when we achieved a good score in these surveys, because it gave me confidence that our business was still on track for the months to come. Contrary to the financial results which are lagging indicators with little predictive value, since they are historical in nature, the employee and customer satisfaction scores are leading indicators with a suitability to predict changes in the business performance.

It might be advisable to involve from time to time external sources in conducting Employee and Customer Satisfaction Surveys due to their neutrality. However, this is also a question of your financial budget that you set aside for such purposes and the level of trust that you have established with your employees and your customers. In external surveys, people will typically answer even more frankly and honestly. The degree of variation depends a lot on your company culture. In our case, from time to time, we used with good success The Gallup Organization to conduct  CE11 Customer Engagement Surveys and Q12 Employee Engagement Surveys whose findings were in line with our own.

Concluding, I would like to state that the benefits of conducting regular employee and customer satisfaction surveys are considerable. The surveys will provide the Management with an overall health check of the organization. It also demonstrates that you care about your employees and your customers, however, always provided that you act on the findings of the surveys.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2009 at 12:42 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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