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Top 3 Reasons Why Customer Satisfaction Surveys Hurt More than They Help…and How to Fix Them

Posted on August 2, 2011 , by Steve Bernstein
CATEGORIES: Lessons Learned

We’ve all seen those customer satisfaction surveys in one form or another.  “Bank X has a 96% Customer Satisfaction rating!”  “Please rate your satisfaction with your most recent experience…”  Companies spend millions of dollars on those every year.  Are they getting their money’s worth?
Certainly not.  Here’s why:

Current Practice:

ROI-Generating Practice:

1. Focusing on Scores
Companies often use “customer satisfaction” to prove how great they are.  Isn’t it annoying when that car dealer asks you to give all top-box scores? 
Instead, Focus on Improvement
Who cares what happened in the past unless you learn from it.  Use customer feedback to know where the organization is performing well, and where it can improve. Since nobody is perfect let the people who know what they want (our customers) provide the needed guidance.
ACTION:  Stop reporting aggregate scores.  Instead, report changes in scores over time (assuming you are collecting your data accurately and consistently), by customer segment.  Is there improvement in the areas of the business that matter most?  Then, ask yourself, “What am I comparing, and do I know why those changes happened?”
2. Reporting “Satisfaction”
What the heck is “satisfaction”
anyway?  “Gee, that product is sure
satisfying!”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word used in real conversation. 
Instead, Report Behavior
Deliver customer experiences that matter and let customers do the shopping and talking. Good companies do the talking themselves.  Great companies know that their customers will come back for more, and will also refer others.Are you reporting and acting on improving those metrics?
ACTION:  Make sure your sales and marketing set the right expectations about what you can actually deliver.  If the truth hurts, then spend your time and resources helping improve.  Provide trustworthy and conclusive customer feedback to the rest of the organization, since your customers’ opinions are what matter most, not yours.   Start by changing your internal dialogs from, “I think that we…” to “Our customers love that we…” or, “Our customers leave us because…”
3. Focusing on Transactions
It’s true that individual customer interactions are important.  But who cares if a caller was happy with their service call if the call should have been avoided in the first place.
Instead, Focus on Relationships
Don’t all businesses want repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals?  Stop reporting within your organizational silos, and understand the relationship from your customer’s point of view.  A focus on a transaction might help you check an item off your to-do list, but it’s not likely to bring that customer back for more.
ACTION:   Want to stand out?   Deliver customer experiences that meet expectations.  Start with delivering what you say you are going to deliver. Think RyanAir – the no-frills airline that ensures its customers know that all they get is a ride to their destination in exchange for the lowest price – and check out their great financial performance.  Not everyone has to be the Ritz Carlton or the iPhone.  But if your sales and marketing sets that expectation, then you better be sure you are delivering it.

By the way, more of our “Top Tips” can be found in our resources section, or with a direct access to our whitepaper