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It's who you know...

1 July 2010

Understanding the needs and wants of your customers is crucial to business success. This is no different for the Met Office. Here, we look at how today's customer feedback is shaping the future of the organisation.

Over the last few years, we've been carrying out annual and special surveys to gain insight into our government, commercial and public customers' requirements.

We have a wide variety of customers who have differing relationships with us. We reflect this in the different approaches we take to gathering their feedback; from face to face interviews through to fully automated email surveys. For instance, we target public surveys around severe weather incidents to gain insight into the usefulness of our warnings.

All customer feedback is fed into an overall action plan so that we regularly review and improve our products and services.

Surveying the scene

In October 2009, we conducted the third wave of our Customer Attitude Survey, carrying out telephone interviews with over 270 customers and stakeholders, from commercial, government and research institutions. The aim of the survey was to gain a clear understanding of our customers' opinions on a range of issues, including their perception of our reputation, our value for money and our customer service.

Met Office Brand Manager, Helen Ticehurst, says, "Our brand positions us as a world-leading provider of weather and climate services, and our customers are the best people to tell us if we're achieving this. This research measures how our customers perceive us and what they want us to be, and helps us understand how we can improve the services we offer them."

The research showed that our reputation among our customers is very high and within the top 10% of all European business-to-business organisations. Over 70% said that 'trusted' was one of the most applicable words to describe the Met Office. Knowledge and expertise were also highlighted as key strengths. 'Being innovative' was one of the things customers wanted us to demonstrate more. See pages 19 and 20 to find out more about innovation at the Met Office.

One of the biggest shifts for the Met Office has been to draw together findings from a variety of surveys to look at the whole customer experience rather than just one aspect for one particular customer group. This customer-focused approach ensures that actions are taken as a result of what customers are telling us as opposed to what we think customers want.

One new element to the mix is the MetPS (Met Promoter Score).

The MetPS

Part of our Corporate Plan is to establish an ongoing user feedback mechanism so we can keep up to date with what our customers think. The MetPS was launched in November 2009 with the objective of obtaining ongoing feedback from customers who have a transactional relationship with us. For those who have a more in-depth relationship, the key questions are embedded into a more detailed survey.

Customer Experience Manager, Chris Stephens, says, "MetPS is a user-friendly, easy way to understand our customers' experience when they deal with the Met Office and receive our products."

It currently works via email and it's integrated into other Met Office systems. When a customer buys a product, the transaction is recorded on a database, which then triggers the MetPS software to send out an email. This links to a mini-questionnaire requesting feedback.

Short and sweet

Consisting of just three questions, it can be completed in just over 30 seconds. The first question asks customers to rate their satisfaction with the Met Office, from 1-5. The second question, known as the promoter question, asks how likely the customer is to recommend the organisation to a friend or colleague, on a scale from 1-10.

As Chris explains, "This question taps into the idea of word-of-mouth and whether people will talk positively or negatively about your product or service. It's an indicator of loyalty - but it also gives us information about our detractors, the unhappy customers."

The third question asks how the organisation can improve, with a text box for customers to make suggestions.

In January 2010, 95% of customers said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the Met Office. The MetPS rating was 49%, a figure well above the general industry level, calculated by taking the percentage of Promoters (ratings of 9 or 10) and subtracting the percentage of Detractors (ratings of 1-6).

Feedback from MetPS is being fed into the overall Corporate Action Plan and used to continuously improve our products and services, and enhance the customers' experience.

Forewarned is forearmed

We constantly review ways of improving our public weather service. Heavy snow, frosts... weather-wise,

the start of 2010 was tumultuous, disrupting travel, schools, work and home life. We worked hard to make sure the public - and the emergency services - were made aware of any potential severe weather. But how were our warnings received?

Public Weather Service Marketing Manager, Adele Beswick, says, "We conducted independently run ad-hoc surveys in specific areas affected by the Early Warnings. We asked if people saw the warnings, if they thought they were useful and whether they acted on them." The public surveys were extremely positive, confirming the expertise of our forecasters and the way the Early Warning information is presented.

Shaping up

One thing the surveys have shown is that there's always room for improvement. Importantly, we're not only willing to ask the questions, we're also prepared to take the necessary steps to make sure we provide the best service possible.

Many thanks to all of you who took part in the surveys.

our reputation

Our reputation

Our Customer Attitude Survey showed that the Met Office's reputation among our customers is very high and within the top 10% of all European business-to-business organisations.

the stats

The stats

The ad-hoc surveys carried out in January 2010 following the issue of heavy snow warnings has given an insight into the way the warnings are received - and what action, if any, people took.

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