Seven Common Flaws in Measuring Customer Satisfaction

When it comes to gauging the happiness and satisfaction of customers, most companies are overly optimistic, according to Martha Brooke, president of Portland, OR-based consultancy Interaction Metrics. This dovetails with what she described as the major flaws in measuring customer satisfaction during her session “Assessing Customer Satisfaction to Improve Customer Interaction” at last week’s National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment (NCOF), cosponsored by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT/OPERATION + FULFILLMENT.

Even the well-intentioned companies go astray, she said, because they measure in different ways than consumers. For example, a contact center might measure abandonment rate, talk time, and the time it took to get an answer. Customers, however, are more likely to measure a company by such criteria as ‘Did I get an answer that moves me ahead?’ or “Do I understand the answer?”

Flaw no. 1: Measurement is based on an incorrect hypothesis. “Feedback cards are great, but they may not get at the things that really count,” Burke said. As an example, an automotive marketer sent out feedback cards that did not focus on what it later learned was considered by customers to be the most important aspects of their experience with the company. To correct the flaw, start without an hypothesis.

Flaw no. 2: Measurement is based on what is satisfactory, not on what is exuberant. Ten years ago researchers looked at the relationship between satisfaction and repurchase rates. What they discovered was counterintuitive: A little more satisfaction doesn’t equate to a more likelihood to buy. To boost retention, you have to create a totally exuberant customer.

Flaw no. 3: Measurement is based on a misrepresentative population. The survey results are in and look great. But remember, often it’s only customers who had a good experience are willing to take a survey in the first place. That’s why you need to survey at multiple points in a variety of formats.

Flaw no. 4: Measurement is based on too small a sample size. Focus groups, usability studies, and “listening labs” are perfectly acceptable methods of getting feedback. Often, however, the sample size is limited. Be wary of making broad assumptions based on samples of only several dozen people.

Flaw no. 5: Measurement is based on internal vocabularies. Customers think in their terms, not yours. A hotel chain, for instance, once asked customers to rate its housekeeping on a scale of 1-5. Though ratings were high, sales remained flat. But when the hotel chain reworded the question as “Did the room feel clean and comfortable?” responses were more detailed, and more critical.

Flaw no. 6: Measurement allows for conflict of interest. Companies often ask their employees for a self-review. Employees want to do well and move ahead, Burke said, and managers and team leaders tend to evaluate their teams higher than the evidence justifies. Fixing this flaw is simple: Get an outside view.

Flaw no. 7: Measurement fails to find out what is most and least important. Some attributes count more than others. In every customer experience, there is something stands out. It’s not good enough to know what your customers perceive, Burke said; you need to know what matters most to them. A few years ago, car rental company Hertz surveyed customers and found out that what they most wanted from the rental experience was to get out of the airport easily. So Hertz built an entire campaign around that.

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