Time to Reassess Customer Satisfaction Tracking

In his latest blog for Marketing Research Institute International (MRII), SLRG President and MRII immediate past board president Jon Last suggests that it is time to reassess some disturbing trends in customer satisfaction assessment. Quick and simple “research” can often equal misinformation.

We’ve likely all been there.  Whether it’s after a customer service phone call, a visit to an automotive dealership or even a resort, a sales person or customer facing agent has subtly or directly encouraged you to respond to a pending customer satisfaction survey with the highest rating possible. And chances are, if we are kind and rational people, we will either acquiesce to or ignore this request, unless we’ve truly had an infuriating experience. The service organization can then “check the box” that they are measuring customer satisfaction and blindly and often incorrectly conclude that everything is just fine and dandy…or that the handful of blistering reviews are indicative of a pervasive organizational problem.  It’s not all that different than exclusively relying upon online message boards or customer reviews, where the rantings or gushings of the vocal minority are often surrogate for good insights. Of course, as researchers, we realize that such a conclusion is often totally wrong and a disservice to both customer and the organization deploying this process.

This quick and cheap feedback is not at all dissimilar to the recent trend towards one-question kiosks in restrooms or other public places. Our firm has actually had experience in reviewing some of this data, and to no surprise the result is bi-modal…responses are either glowingly positive or fiercely negative. This makes perfect sense.  Such “surveys” utilize convenience samples and are typically driven by technology solutions that fail to consider the nuance of well-crafted, customized surveys and methodologies that probe deeper for real insights and carefully consider a representative sample so as to gain a more robust and accurate snapshot of customer-service efforts. As a profession, we need to continue to fight against these shortcuts that create misinformation.  These cookie-cutter satisfaction-measurement platforms will inevitably cost the organizations who deploy them a lot of strong and subtle insight into their customers in the process.  Furthering the irony is that several of the solutions currently available are not inexpensive.

For those organizations that seek a real, actionable look at customer satisfaction, it’s imperative to deploy customized programs that not only objectively measure real-time customer satisfaction and also integrate digital customer comment and response mechanisms that work in tandem with feedback loops and loyalty management programs. These will allow those organizations to prioritize feedback by customer recency, frequency and lifetime value, among other segmentation variables deemed important.