Lots have been said about customer satisfaction see at the end of this entry for entries on this blog about customer satisfaction). Organizations struggle to get their customer satisfaction scores under control, they “need” or want to get them to a certain number (for some reason, 76% seems to be the magical number most of them are trying to reach today, slightly lower than the 80% we saw couple of years ago).
Tons of money, time, and resources are piled into these projects. None of them realize the poor value of customer satisfaction as a stand-alone score. I have been saying for quite some time that customer satisfaction does not rank very high in the list of metrics you should follow — yet, I get more and more requests everyday on how to calculate it and use it. As a Public Service I am going to give you four secrets on how to score higher in customer satisfaction surveys:
1. Know who to survey. what happens if you ask someone who is disgruntled or unhappy? there goes your customer satisfaction score down the drain. Know your customers, segment them, and pick the segment that is likely to return higher scores. Survey them. In any customer base there is always a 8-10% that would give you high scores regardless of what you do, another 10-15% or so will never like you no matter what. There is also 20-30% that don’t like to give low scores in surveys. Find out who the first and last group are and try to survey them and not the others.
2. Select the words for your questions carefully. There are many books written on how to ask questions for surveys, comparing the different words you use and the results you get. You see this being used in political surveys all the time: using support vs. agree, think vs. feel, and many more. Truth is, how you write the question will bias the answer you get. People react different when you use “think” instead of “feel”. Psychologically, they feel that feelings are more private and their reaction is to guard their feelings by lowering scores so you don’t know how they feel. They tend to give you higher scores when you ask for their thoughts.
3. Change the scale for your metrics. Feedback “experts” will tell you that using smaller scales (e.g. from one through five) will give you less granularity into your answers. It will also give you higher scores. Customers are not inherently out to give you poor scores, but the more choices they have the more likely they are to split hairs. In smaller scales it is easier to get to an 80% of satisfaction, since that is only 2 out of 5 scores, than in a larger scale where it is 3 out of 10. Using numbers instead of words (such as agree or disagree with their different variations) will give you higher scores; call it human nature, but we don’t like to agree.
4. Coerce higher scores. If you offer a prize or a drawing as a result of the feedback your customers provide, you are bound to have higher scores. Respondents have the feeling that if they are “nicer” to you they have a higher chance of winning. They believe that if they give you lower scores you will throw away their entry and they won’t qualify for the contest or drawing. This is mostly because they don’t understand the value of the feedback they provide, and the benefit for them of being honest: they are after the money.
What is that? Manipulation? Absolutely, no questions about it. See why you should not use this metric? It is not going to improve your relationships with your customer, guide your customer service changes appropriately, or make you more liked by your customers. Actually, if you rely on this metric to guide your operations you are likely to loose more customers this way. Use with caution, good measure, and within a metrics program that looks at other metrics to make sure you don’t over-rely on it.
Are you still using customer satisfaction as a metric? Did I convince you otherwise?
Links to Customer Satisfaction Entries