Obtaining Customer Feedback

As we learned from my last post, it takes much more than technical skills to become successful as a database administrator.  One of the key measurements DBAs can use to evaluate their performance is customer feedback.  We feel so strongly about customer feedback at Remote DBA Experts that we have created a customer feedback strategy called “The Customer Feedback Engine.” We have established multiple communication flows to ensure that we receive feedback from all of the personnel that we support including management, DBAs, developers and end-users.

Since we support many different organizations in virtually every market silo (high technology, heavy manufacturing, retail, health care, etc.), it is obvious to us that each of our customers has a unique set of value drivers that they use to evaluate the quality of our service.   If we don’t understand what they are, how can we be sure that we are meeting their needs? The answer is that we can’t.

Since I work for a remote services provider, we live and die by customer feedback.   But do DBAs that work for a single business organization need their own “Customer Feedback Engine”?   The answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Each group that you support has their own set of value drivers.  You have to understand what they want.  If you don’t, you will be viewed as just a mere technician and that is exactly where you’ll stay throughout your career.  This is NOT an optimal career path. Database administrators have a highly visible role in every organization. You can take advantage of that role to be viewed as someone who is a key player, as opposed to a mere technician.

You can obtain customer feedback by any number of physical mechanisms but it all boils down to this.  You need to put your ego aside, understand that you need to obtain constructive criticism to get better at what you get paid to do and ask your customers. Some of the more popular choices are DBA “report cards” or surveys that are sent to your customer base.   I have used report cards with much success in the past.

A helpful hint with report cards is to make sure you include a field for the participant to include their business unit but not require a signature.  This will help the participants feel more comfortable when they fill out the survey and provide you with a higher quality source of feedback information that you can use to tune and tweak your service delivery methods.

Since we support so many different customers, let me give you some examples of the questions that you need to ask:

  • General Support – The intent of the first question is to obtain a general, high-level understanding of how you are doing.  It opens up the conversation to allow you to obtain feedback that may not be obtained from the more specific questions you will ask.
  • Responsiveness – Are you responding quickly enough to their requests?  Do you complete tasks when they are needed?
  • Communication – There are so many aspects to this subject, it is important to provide the participants with specific examples.
    • Frequency – Do you provide your customers with information on a timely basis?  Are you keeping them aware of your accomplishments with clear updates on large projects?  Do you inform them when you complete daily work requests in a timely manner?  Are you providing your customers with the appropriate status reports on long-running problems that are affecting their application?
    • Content – Does the level of communication you are providing to your customer match their technical background?  Does the language you use seem too technical, not technical enough, too high level or are you delving too deep into the details?
    • Clarity – When you are providing or asking for information, do they understand what you are telling them or what you want from them?
    • Communication Mechanisms- What communication transfer methods do they feel comfortable with?  Do they prefer e-mails, ticket updates, phone calls or quick face-to-face meeting?   Our customers range the spectrum.  From those that blatantly tell us “never call me, just e-mail and don’t do that a lot” to customers who prefer a continuous level of communications using all of the communication methods available.
  • Effectiveness – Are you performing the right tasks they need when they need them?  Just as you may find that you need to provide your customers with additional activities to support their needs, you may also be providing them with service activities that are not important to them.
  • Quality of Support – Ask them to rate the quality of the services you are providing to them.
  • Current Issues – Do they have any current issues that need to be addressed?
  • Additional Information – What other questions should you be asking them?

As we learned in this blog, effective measurements are required to judge the success of any activity.  The quality of support you provide needs to be reviewed on a regular basis.  These questions allow your customers to provide you with important feedback on the quality of your support.  You can then “tune and tweak” your services accordingly.

Meetings should also be held with the customer groups that were asked to participate in the analysis.  It is important to make your customers aware of the external influences that may be affecting your support (inadequate staffing levels, time consuming projects, technical limitations of the environment).  These aren’t intended to be excuses but your customers may not know that some of their expectations will be hard to achieve until you provide them with the reasons.

Thanks for Reading,

Chris Foot
Oracle Aceace_2
Director Of Service Delivery

Tips from the Oracle Ace