By Ollie Smith – Customer Insight Manager at Masternaut
For any business, customers are king and royal approval, or customer satisfaction as it is known, is a measure of how the business is doing. Unlike most financial indicators, customer satisfaction is also good at predicting future performance. For this reason, it is for many the key performance indicator. However, it’s becoming harder to manage, more volatile and needs to be grounded in some psychological understanding of customers, not just focusing on better technical solutions.
It’s an eternal truth that satisfied customers tend to spend more and stay more loyal. What has changed is the ability for their satisfaction, or lack of, to be communicated so widely. These days they don’t have to keep it to themselves or their account manager but have the tools to share their thoughts and experiences with the world – and it tends to be the extremes (Very satisfied or Very dissatisfied customers) who bother to share them. Poor reviews can make or break companies. We’re social animals, we think busy restaurants are better than empty ones, and we avoid things with bad reviews from people we like on Twitter or 1-star ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, Trustpilot or Amazon.
But how can fleet management companies improve customer satisfaction, and what are the challenges they face in 2021? Here are 3 things to think about to improve customer satisfaction, using the delivery sector as an example:
- Providing a Better Service
This is the most obvious one. A bit like the director who tells the actor that their diction and movement are great, “just do it a bit better”. Using fleet tracking technology, businesses can see the exact routes their vehicles have taken each day. By analysing these routes over time, it is possible to identify areas where congestion and delays are common and then plan routes which avoid them.
From a client and customer satisfaction point of view, businesses being more productive means they may be able to receive deliveries sooner than expected or get an engineer out to fix a problem more quickly. Reduced costs from more productive fleets can also be passed on to customers through lower prices increasing satisfaction.
However, expecting to see continuous growth in customer satisfaction solely through faster service or cost reduction is likely to result in frustration and disappointment. The nature of competitive markets is that technical innovations are quickly adopted by competitors and built into future customer expectations, raising the bar. It’s also naive to think higher customer expectations in our personal lives (acceleration of trend to ease and convenience of home shopping) will not be carried over to our business lives. It’s not getting any easier.
- Focusing on what Matters Most to Customers
Customer satisfaction is about much more than service. As behavioural psychologist, Rory Sutherland, points out: “The single best thing London Transport did to improve passenger satisfaction on the tube per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent trains, it was the display boards on the platforms. It doesn’t change reality at all but we’d rather wait 8 minutes for a tube knowing it’s 8 minutes than wait 5 minutes for a tube in a state of not knowing and uncertainty. We inherently really hate uncertainty.”
Fleet Management Technology can, with Uber-like precision, inform customers where their driver is and when their order will be delivered. We can communicate Estimated Times of Arrival helping customers plan. We can remove the uncertainty customers hate.
Vehicle tracking allows fleet managers to see each vehicle’s live location within their fleet at any time. Where this can be particularly useful is updating customers on arrival times should there be a delay or change to a schedule. Rather than leaving customers waiting for a delivery between 2-3 pm which is delayed, updating the customer that a change to their delivery slot has occurred will improve satisfaction.
So, the second way to improve customer satisfaction is to recognise the need to focus on what’s most important to customers and that this is not always a rational (e.g. ‘I want faster deliveries’), but often more psychological (e.g. ‘I need more certainty about when they are coming and to be in control’).
- Managing Brand Image
Brand Image, or customers’ perceptions of the overall company, is often not considered in the same context as customer satisfaction. Image is seen as something marketing does, whereas customer satisfaction is more the result of day-to-day operations. This is a misconception as they are interrelated.
Customers want to deal with delivery companies that are responsible and kind. It doesn’t matter what time a package arrives, if the driver is rude, blocks neighbours in or drives dangerously down the road then this will adversely affect customer satisfaction. Telematics can help manage driver behaviour, notifying incidents of speeding, harsh braking and cornering. This driver management, positioned as Big Mother not Big Brother, results in safer roads, happier, better drivers and ultimately happier customers. It also results in less vehicle downtime and lower maintenance costs.
As the move to zero-emissions vehicles gathers pace, customers will become more attuned to whether delivery vehicles are electric or not. It’s perfectly possible to imagine this will impact satisfaction. Electric vehicles will be seen by some as a sign of a company that leads the way, is smart and thinks about things other than short-term profits. This is often communicated already with messaging on the vehicles themselves and on company websites. In some cases, we’re hearing about large organisations restricting tenders to suppliers with electric fleets only.
Telematics can measure precise levels of CO2 outputs and help companies communicate and compensate through carbon-offsetting programmes.
Customer Satisfaction – The Holy Grail
Improving customer satisfaction should be a key aim for all companies – it’s not getting any easier, but there are now tools and better information to help with its management. The most successful commercial fleet operators will see improvements not just through the actual service to their customers, like reducing delivery times, but taking into consideration customers’ perceptions of that service. They will focus on what matters most to customers, which is often about being in control with better information. And they’ll remember that brand image provides an important context, too.