In the last three years, many companies have undergone significant changes to help them weather the tough economic climate. From streamlining operations to run as lean as possible, to reducing costs in areas such as talent development and customer facing activities, companies have had to make some difficult choices. For CDW, continuing to invest in a strong customer survey strategy helped them strengthen customer relationships and build revenue. 

In 2009, during the height of the economic slump, CDW was able to use its customer survey program to identify thousands of customers interested in specific product offerings, allowing them to convert general interest into millions of dollars in additional revenue. 

For companies looking to create stronger ties with their current customers through a loyalty program that demonstrates value externally and internally, a customer feedback program can be one of the most accurate ways to track sentiment and flag any potential issues of concern. When combined with the right customer service, coworker training and metrics, a customer feedback program can provide valuable business insights for improvement and revenue generation. For any organization looking to create or enhance the way they listen and respond to customers, there are five components that should be immediately implemented:

Take immediate action on problems/issues. The first priority should be to promptly address any issues or requests identified by a customer during a survey. Distribute these "hot alerts" to the right department to start immediate follow up, and make sure to track these issues until the follow up has taken place.

Jump on sales leads. Customer surveys can be a rich source of sales leads for your organization, so also handle these as "hot alerts" and direct them to your sales team immediately. This allows account managers to follow up on the inquiry and provide more a personal interaction with the customer. 

Metrics, metrics, metrics — track loyalty, brand and employee engagement. Since loyalty tends to generate revenue and profit for a company, tracking loyalty is an effective way to gauge your progress with customers and company growth. Similarly, brand tracking allows you to understand the decisions that go into the shopping and buying process, which in turn helps your company stay current on activities in your industry. Lastly, engage your employees; when employees believe in their company's leadership and strategy, they will work harder and pass that enthusiasm on to customers.
Feedback on key customer touchpoints. Sales interactions, delivery, product offering, billing process and website efficiency are the experience areas that drive customer loyalty the most. Survey feedback can help identify opportunities to improve these areas and track improvement over time.

Remain close to active customers and engage less active customers. It is critical to hear regularly from your most active customers in order to understand their loyalty level, uncover problem areas that need correcting and identify new sales opportunities. Equally as important is the opportunity to engage less active customers to understand how you can provide a better experience for this audience and encourage them to do business with your company more often. 

For CDW, the implementation of a strong Loyalty and Experience Program helped the company gather feedback from tens of thousands of customers in the last year. This invaluable feedback allowed the company to better respond to customer needs through direct personal contact, product offerings and marketing communications. 

In 2009, the surveys identified several thousand customer issues that were flagged to receive personal follow-up from CDW's Sales or Quality Assurance Teams. These are issues that easily could have gone undetected and led to customer attrition. 

When a company performs at its best, customers become more loyal. An average truly loyal customer has much higher revenue, profit and order volume compared to a high-risk customer. Creating customer loyalty has a direct link to the bottom line — so what are you waiting for? Implement these five core components to your program, and you can improve operations and service experience, all measured through the eyes of the customer.

Calvin Vass is Senior Manager, Research at CDW. Visit for more information.