The surveys should become an ongoing activity as customer behavior and preferences change quite often and the company needs to be aware of all changes to be able to adapt to them. For this, the company needs to have set up a system to send as many surveys online as possible to keep costs under control. Every customer should be asked to provide an email address, which can later be used for sending promotional messages, if the customer agrees to receive communications from Kerry Co. Potential systems that meet these requirements are Zoomerang and Inquisite that have quite a large capacity of sending surveys for this kind of business. E-mail surveys are likely to be more appropriate for the young buyers, whereas the elder ones should be inquired about their satisfaction via phone or post, which is a more expensive method. Nevertheless, elders are likely to have a higher contribution to the company's sales as their disposable income is higher. The importance of phone surveys shouldn't be diminished, as these have the advantage of real-time response and a higher response rate than internet surveys, despite an alarming decreasing refusal rates for this kind of interview (AC Nielsen, 2004 quoted in Market Tools, 2005). On the other hand, internet surveys are cheaper as mentioned before and can be completed faster, while a broader market segment can be reached (Conklin, 2006).
After the data is collected, this should be analyzed to provide an insight into the customer's preferences and satisfaction. Ideally the answers are provided by segments: age, gender, income level. Thus, Kerry Co. is able to better segment its customers and organize the sales and promotional activities for each segment. For example, buyers with lower income are more likely to react to promotional fliers advertising for cheaper products. Conversely, higher income buyers are more likely to react to promotional fliers advertising for more expensive and high quality products. Thus, the cookware manufacturer is able to dosage the advertising spending more efficiently. Also, younger buyers are likely to be more internet-friendly. For these customers the direct sales activity can be done via e-mail, thus saving the sales rep's time that can focus on elder customers that require a face-to-face contact, not to mention that internet-customers can be contacted all in the same time with the click of the mouse at a zero variable cost.
In the case of wholesales customers, Kerry Co. needs to work with these ones to get their support in getting the final customer's opinion along with the wholesales customer's one. However, the company might have to design different surveys as companies fit different customer profiles than individuals. Wholesalers' satisfaction is more likely to be driven by prices, promotions, such as discounts, ease in distribution and ease to reach the sales rep.
The analysis should be made either in Excel or a similar spreadsheet application or a statistical tool such as SPSS or ideally a combination of both. SPSS could be used for linear regressions and correlations between various functional areas and general satisfaction, whereas Excel is able to calculate % variances to past sales and customer characteristics, thus giving the company an idea of what changed that drove sales to fall.
Once the analysis is done, the cookware company needs to budget potential marketing strategies and estimate future outcomes, which will lead to a cost/benefit analysis. The objective of a cost/benefit analysis is to optimize the benefit/cost ratio; that is, getting the best outcome given a certain level of resources. Any change in the sales activity, geographic distribution, distribution channel, advertising, pricing, etc. Or any combination of those should have an outcome estimation attached to it. When all potential scenarios are finalized, these should be compared against each other and based on the company's budget one of them should be chosen. Implementation is the next phase, but not the last. All strategies should have a follow-up activity, namely controls, meant to monitor the change progress.
The budget for a customer satisfaction research campaign is proportional to the sample size. For small samples, under 5,000 customers, the costs are quite low if the majority of respondents can be inquired online. The company doesn't even need to purchase a survey tool subscription as these tools have a free version which can be used for small samples. The costs are increasing exponentially if the respondents need to be contacted in person or by phone. However, there are voip (voice-over-ip) solutions, which lower the telephone bills considerably, such as Skype. An estimated budget for the surveys should be around £3,000.
The data analysis requires a spreadsheet application at the minimum. The Office Small Business pack is now available for £391.48. A good statistics software subscription, such as SPSS Statistics Base for analysis and research, should cost £1,000 at most for a long period of time. In case of budget restrictions, there are always free for download solutions used in scholar programs such as R-project.
Given that the satisfaction analysis is meant to be an ongoing project, the company would have to hire a permanent employee in charge with all the customer satisfaction procedures. The industry average salary for this position is between £35,000 and £50,000 per year.
The phone interviews should be kept at minimum due to the superior costs of phone calls when compared to the internet access. Anyhow, both a phone and an internet subscription should be owned by the company for this campaign, which should cost £30 at the minimum. Assuming that phone interviews are mostly performed via Skype or a similar voip solution, this cost shouldn't be exceeded.
The maximum budget for such a campaign shouldn't exceed £4,430 in the beginning, plus £50,000 throughout the whole year.
Kerry Co. needs to implement a series of key performance indicators to track down the progress and potential issues that arise after implementing the new marketing strategy. Key performance indicators usually refer to "metrics used to help an organization define and evaluate how successful it is, typically in terms of making progress towards its long-term organizational goals" (Wikipedia, Accessed Feb 2009 - key performance indicator).
The key performance indicators should be seen separately for new customers and returning customers and they should reflect sales/month or sales/buyer, # of items/month or # of items/buyer, overall satisfaction of returning buyers vs. their prior satisfaction level, product distribution for given age/gender/income segments and why not sales or orders/sales rep. These last two indicators evaluate the sales reps' performance.
Kerry Co. should also try to forecast sales/orders/product ranges and compare actual figures with their forecasts, measure their gaps and in the future develop a system through which sales reps are able to accurately forecast sales and commit to their forecasts. This can also help the company develop a good incentive system for the sales team based on management by objectives (MBO).
Finally, industry averages could be useful for the company to benchmark its own activity against the competitors'. Industry averages are usually available in industry associations, requiring the company to have an association membership. Kerry Co. can also use benchmarking to compare sales levels from different product ranges within the company and compare the progress of different products. Some products may register a better evolution than others and their evolution can serve as best practice for others provided that marketing activities can be replicated in other cases as well.
Conklin, M. 2006. Measuring and Tracking Customer Satisfaction - You Know Why, We Show You How. Zoomerang White Paper, www.zoomerang.com
Just Food. 2006. UK Cookware. Report ID: 41379, www.just-food.com
Lichty, J.J. 1998. Window Treatment Advertising - Word of Mouth. DWC Magazine, December Edition, www.dwconline.com