Assessing customers is a vital part of business management because it enables organizations to meet their customers' needs more fully. Happier customers mean more business, which leads to greater profits and business growth. A number of tools for customer assessment are available -- some for purchase, many for free. The important part of the task is gaining insight into what customers like, don't like, want and need.
The customer fills out self-assessment tools on her own. They include surveys, questionnaires, rating cards and any other tool that is completed entirely by the customer. This method of assessment can be used in person, online, on the phone or through the mail, and can be sent to every customer whose information is stored in the business database. This information is helpful because it comes directly from the customer, but the instruments must be filled out appropriately and sample a large portion of the customer base.
Businesses can use existing data for customer assessment in a variety of ways. They can analyze information on purchase patterns over time as well as trends in the business. They can collect this data when a customer makes a purchase or has a service performed. Other types of existing data include budgets, business plans and evaluations. Using existing data can provide a larger picture of what is happening with customers over time.
Observing customers in action is a helpful way of assessing them, but it may be more subjective than using an instrument. Rather than quantitative data, observation generates qualitative data, which is more difficult to analyze. It is more personal, however, and the customer being assessed may enjoy it more. Examples of observation include focus groups and management observation. Managers may also interview customers one-on-one to find out ways that the business could better meet their needs.