Customer Sat Surveys:
“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”

When I see some customer satisfaction surveys, I can’t help but hear that memorable Rolling Stones song title: “I Can't Get No Satisfaction”

What most offends me are those scales that use "expectations" as a key criterion, e.g., "Exceeded My Expectations" at one end to something like "Failed to Meet My Expectations" at the other end. At E-RM, two major objections prohibit use of this approach:

  1. Unless I know what your customers' expectations are, how do I know how to interpret their responses to this scale?
  2. Over time, a customer becomes accustomed to the level and quality of a brand's product, service, or the service itself. Thus, by definition, that customer's response should trend toward the mid-point of this scale, usually labeled "Met Expectations.”

My most fundamental problem with this line of inquiry/measurement method is the vast amount of unknowns it embraces—indeed, it welcomes them! Questions abound as to what the firm’s long term goal is and whether exceeding expectations means something totally good (e.g., genuinely, pleasantly surprising and impressing the customer) or indicates some mismatch of customer communications and targeting.

Data interpretation is tough enough without adding to the ambiguity with all these unknowns (or are they “unknown unknowns”?)…

Ironically, a similar dilemma may inhibit the opposite result: ratings of a failure to meet expectations. Did the product (or service) really fail to deliver, or were customers misinformed about the level of service or product quality to “expect”? Data interpretation is tough enough without adding to the ambiguity with all these unknowns (or are they “unknown unknowns”?). My hope is that, now, they are at least “known unknowns.”

So, as a criterion measure for “satisfaction,” the expectations scale only adds to the problem. Can we please banish it forthwith?

 

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