This paper reviews the existing literature on customer satisfaction measurement and provides the theoretical background for the development of a number of tools to help the community services industry in Queensland measure customer satisfaction.

In the context of community service delivery, there are a range of issues to be considered when designing and using satisfaction measurement tools.  There is a growing expectation, in the literature that individuals and their family should be at the centre of service design, delivery and review.  Tools and processes for measuring satisfaction need to accommodate individual needs and preferences around literacy, timing and form.  There is also an expectation that people who have contributed to such processes will receive information on the broader outcomes from their feedback and ideas.

At a broader policy level, contestability and a move to self-directed and in some cases, self-managed funding means the people who use services may be doing so under market or market-like conditions.  This requires that people shift from being consumers to “discerning customers” which will bring challenges and opportunities for both organisations and the people who use their services.

The paper begins by outlining a brief definition of customer satisfaction measurement drawing on the extant literature. At the most basic level, customer satisfaction measurement involves assessing the difference between a customer’s expectation of a product or services and a customer’s experience of a product or service.

The paper investigates the main reasons why measuring customer satisfaction is important. Through the review of the literature it is shown that customer satisfaction measurement provides a means to better understand the needs of social service customers and to empower customers by creating customer-centred services. It is also argued that customer satisfaction measurement provides a means of creating ongoing service improvement by identifying areas of improvement. Lastly it is argued that customer satisfaction measurement provides a performance management tool that can be used to generate data to meet compliance and reporting requirements, provide customers with information about service performance and provide evidence for future funding proposals.

The paper also discusses how customer satisfaction is measured by analysing the literature on key drivers or determinants of satisfaction. This section of the report demonstrates the importance of understanding satisfaction from the point of view of the customer. It argues that the drivers or determinants of satisfaction will differ in different service contexts and discusses the importance of including service customers in the design of customer satisfaction surveys. Doing so, ensures that customer satisfaction processes are able to accurately reflect the needs and values of customers and can be effective in driving service improvement.

The final section reviews a number of methodological considerations. This includes discussion of the impact of timing, sampling bias, customer benefit and confidentiality on participation and the impact of customer expectations and experiences, social and cultural background, intellectual disability and mental illness and response bias on participation and response quality. As it is noted it is useful to gain direct feedback from customers about how they would prefer customer satisfaction surveys to be administered, as this can have a significant impact on participation and on the quality of responses.

The paper provides a starting point for social service organisations in developing more rigorous customer satisfaction processes and will be augmented by the development of tools that can be used to assist in the measurement of customer satisfaction. As part of the development of these tools, QCOSS will be undertaking consultation with the social service sector to ascertain current practice and capacity. This will include consultation with customers to better understand how customer satisfaction measurement processes can be engaged in the development of customer satisfaction processes.

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