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Planes, trains and automobiles: The long road to User Satisfaction

hills and mountains in misty sunlight

Socitm’s Matthew Fraser recently went on a road-trip to Wales with Interim Head of Membership and Partners, Aimie Francis. Here he explains how Improve literally improves service delivery. And how Aimie’s driving led to a white-knuckle ride!

There and back again

It was a long journey for the twelve participants who joined us at our recent Welsh Improve Workshop in Llandrindod Wells. Many of them travelling from the corners of the Principality to join us for our 10am start. None however, had travelled as far as myself.

While many had left home at 7am, my journey began at 11am the previous day as I travelled by plane, train and finally by foot from Inverness to the middle of Powys. I say travel, but this included an hour delay to my flight, another two hours waiting for the single train that travels from Birmingham to Llandrindod and finally a one hour lay connection in Shrewsbury. All told, it was 8pm when I finally reached the station in the centre of town, but not seeing any taxi rank (or indeed many people) I foolishly chose to walk to my hotel – incidentally Google Maps estimate of 46 minutes was incredibly accurate. So after a total ten hours, I had finally reached my destination (and you dear reader have finally reached the moment when I start to discuss User Satisfaction).

Long as our respective journeys were, they are but a fraction compared to the effort involved in making and keeping our end-users satisfied.

The workshop

As our workshop discussion began, one thing quickly became clear.  Welsh councils are very good when it comes to User Satisfaction! Could it be that the Welsh simply give better service? Or is it because as a nation they are more easily pleased than the Scots or English? Unfortunately, our data cannot explain this. But it did show that only one organisation had an average score below 4.9 (on a scale of 1 to 7). While we could sense their shame in the room, even this score is very close to typical levels elsewhere in the UK.

But what affects these “Satisfaction Scores”? As the group discussion continued, we realised that while we are all diverse with each participating organisation being unique similar themes and challenges recur. These include:

  • New devices make a difference: Everyone likes shiny new things.
  • New systems and ways of working can have teething problems.
  • Users exposure to consumer devices affect their view of corporate IT.
  • Curiously, the more you request feedback, the happier users become – provided you are seen to act on it.

A key benefit of conducting User Satisfaction along with your peers is the ability to discuss these challenges with one another. Then learn how different approaches are working or can be refined.

During the morning session we also discussed how we can get more feedback from our users.

Once again, hats off to the Welsh organisations with five receiving responses from over 30% of their users compared to the national median of 24%. One participant attained a colossal response rate of 38%. The key to such high rates appears to be:

  • Publicise the survey well in advance, explaining why it is important
  • Be a nuisance: Keep on asking for responses via reminder emails and newsletters
  • Conduct regular surveys.
  • Ask your whole user base, not just those who have recently contacted you.
  • Demonstrate that you are using the data and comments provided.

Leave a review

Now throughout my travels, I couldn’t help but notice how often I was asked for feedback. Hotels, cafes and trains all requested that I complete a short survey either via a note on the receipt, a sign on the wall or a follow up email. Of course, like the hypocrite that I clearly am I haven’t completed any of these. This illustrates how difficult it is to get feedback from the average service user. Therefore, I would like to thank the over 8,000 users who completed our survey within Wales.

After a break for lunch participants were asked to to “Mind the Gap”. Not the gap between train and platform, but the “Expectation Gap”. Improve’s User Satisfaction survey requests users to rate twenty aspects of service delivery by their 1) importance and 2) satisfaction. These can then be compared to see if participating organisations are successfully delivering the elements of the service that users really care about.

For example, my flight may be happy to serve “premium brand” coffee. But I’d be happy to drink anything provided my flight arrived on time. (You may guess from this example that my return flight was also delayed. Perhaps next time my “expectation gap” will be lower due to anticipating poor service in the first instance.)

It was interesting to note that while most organisations faced similar issues, the extent to which expectation was being met varied considerably. Our group discussions therefore gave some the opportunity to show off by explaining recent changes, while others gained valuable insight.

another heading

This cohort of organisations was the first to analyse the IT competency of their users, utilizing our new “User Skills” set of questions. The results from this section showed that in general most users are very skilled in IT. However, some participants were able to identify key areas where additional training or awareness could be beneficial. Oddly, we also found an interesting proportion of users who expressed a “Don’t know – don’t care” attitude to IT skills. This could show that a different type of training may be required.

For my journey back to Birmingham I abandoned the train, accepting the offer of a lift back with my colleague – Improve Manager Aimie Francis. This certainly removed the stress from my return leg, or at least part of it. A future blog on Aimie’s driving may follow. This made we wonder, could we take away some of the stress you may have when conducting User Satisfaction surveys?

Socitm Improve can:

  • Provide you with a set of established peer-assured questions
  • Send out invitations and reminders
  • Present your results in a dynamic Tableau dashboard

Most importantly, you’ll get the chance to discuss your results at our next workshop (hopefully at a location that is nearer to me), where you can learn from your peers how they are driving up satisfaction.

The workshop can also provide a happy reminder that no organisation is perfect. In fact, even the best performing organisation (with an overall satisfaction score of 6.06) still had a one individual who said the service was awful! Maybe they were just grumpy after a ten-hour journey.