Many Canadian Federal Government RFPs required bidders to address customer satisfaction, which can mean one or both of two things:
- The happiness of end users of the service/product with the contractor’s responsiveness and service quality. In the context of administrative services, this happiness might depend on their answers to these questions:
- Do they answer the phone/email as fast as I want?
- Do they resolve all my problems?
- Do they act just like the public servants who used to do this job?
- Do they understand my work environment in a way that only someone who’s worked there possibly could?
- The happiness of client officials with the contractor’s responsiveness and service quality. Using the same administrative-services context, this happiness might depend on their answers to these questions:
- Do I hear complaints from end users about how fast or how well the contractor answers the phone/email?
- Do contractor staff answer the phone/email as fast as the contract says they must?
- Do contractor staff give accurate information and advice when they do answer?
- Do I have an easy way to be sure of the answers to either of the two previous questions?
- Are complaints handled quickly and transparently?
- Are reports on time? Complete? Accurate?
- When a senior contracting officer calls, do they jump?
- Does the contractor do whatever we tell them to do, even if it’s not in the contract?
Discerning readers will have noticed a few things:
- These two lists are not the same, and the differences matter. That’s true for contracts for administrative services, technical services, cell-phone plans, software development, design/build services (facilities and equipment), and for categories of procurement I can’t think of at the moment.
- Some list items are subjective assessments and some are objective measurements. That, too, applies to most contracts.
- Some list items cannot possibly be delivered. Yup, broadly true as well.
So what? Well, the response period is not the time to start thinking about customer satisfaction. The RFP requirements (Work and response) are not even the place to start, although you have to get there eventually.
Start, as so often, with Seth: Don’t insulate yourself from the user experience.
Spend some time in the store.
Visit your own website to get work done the way a customer would.
Answer the tech phone calls for a few hours.
And ask yourself: Would I be satisfied with that? With how easy it is to find things on our website? With what our staff have the information and tools to do? With their speed? With their knowledge and helpfulness?
And figure out how to turn the user experience into a metric that’s as easy to measure as how much money you made last month.
That’s the answer you want in your proposal, backed by some examples of changes you’ve made in response to that metric. In addition, of course, to ticking all the boxes the RFP requires on this topic.
And no, it doesn’t resolve the problem of unrealistic/impossible expectations, but we always start with what we can control.