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During the recent SEMA webinar, “Listen to Your Customers, Their Opinions Really Do Matter,” Joe Bates, vice president of Rockbridge Associates and Charles Colby, chief methodologist of Rockbridge Associates provided insight on how to effectively use customer feedback to create a profitable business model that satisfies customer needs and expectations and encourages continuous improvement within an organization.

Presenter Joe Bates explained that measuring customer satisfaction is important to increase customer loyalty in financial terms, such as customer retention and the success of new products, and helps to ensure a balance between short-term profitability and meeting customer needs.

Referred to as The Path to Excellence, Charles Colby explained the five progressive stages of improvement: problem definition, discovery, baseline measurement, planning and tracking.

“This method goes beyond writing a customer questionnaire and gathering customer opinion," stated Colby. “These are fundamental steps that make sure you are getting buy in from the organization resulting in something actionable that can be measured over time,” said Colby.

Colby broke down The Path to Excellence in the following best practice model for measuring customer satisfaction.

Stage One, Problem Definition: Talk to internal stakeholders to help build understanding and support for a customer measurement effort. Colby suggests using workshops, in-depth interviews and focus groups to gather information from various company stakeholders—board of directors, senior and mid-level management and employees. Topics to discuss include internal resources and obstacles and the current status of customer satisfaction and expectations.

Stage Two, Discovery: Turn to your customers to come up with a definition of service quality and customer satisfaction. A typical format to gather customer feedback is through a focus group, according to Colby, and the topics should include customer experiences with the organization and customer expectations.

Stage Three, Baseline Measurement: Survey customers to gather a comprehensive assessment of what your customers think of your current services and products. This helps to establish a current baseline for performance. Colby suggests using surveys via mail, telephone, in person or the Internet.

Stage Four, Planning: Use the information to develop a long-range plan for improving quality. Setting performance goals and identifying improvement priorities are key in this stage. Colby explained that this stage is also where customer expectations are quantified and compared to performance levels.

Stage Five, Tracking: Continue measurement of your efforts in a cost-effective manner, and feed your tracking information back into the planning process for continuous improvement. Colby emphasized the importance of monitoring satisfaction continuously and tracking changes.  

To hear this valuable webinar in its entirety and learn more about how to implement these processes into your business, access the audio portion of this webinar by visiting

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