Customer Satisfaction Surveys Are Falsely Named


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IBM CIO Report: Key Findings

I know I am not the only one who admires and quotes Seth Godin, one of the foremost marketing strategists, speakers and authors of our time. Seth recently blogged about the most effective way to get feedback, especially from customers. He and I are in complete agreement about using directness to understand what customers really think about your products or services. Seth states, “…looking someone in the eye, …having a direct one on one conversation or email correspondence with a customer who cares” is the premier method for collecting constructive feedback.

I’ve long been against customer satisfaction surveys. Not that they don’t have some usefulness, however, 1) they do not delight customers; 2) they ask customers to spend time answering questions your company developed; and 3) they simply do not get into the customer mind (refer back to #2).

Several years ago I was on a sales call with a colleague to provide our qualitative customer satisfaction assessment program for a prospect. The prospect was telling us that he knew exactly what his customers felt about his company because they had recently completed a satisfaction survey using a web-based survey tool. He checked his notes and beamingly said, “We had an 80% satisfaction rate which was much better than we got three years ago.” When my colleague and I left the appointment, we looked at each other and both said, “He thinks 80% is good??” Needless to say, this prospect thought he had his bases covered with an understanding of his customer satisfaction levels. After all, he spent a lot of money on the survey. He now had other problems to address.

Customer satisfaction surveys can provide statistical data points that have their usefulness but they do not and cannot indicate what’s really in a customer’s mind.

I believe the challenge is a semantics problem. Many of the surveys called “customer satisfaction” are really not going to give a company a realistic indication of how satisfied or dissatisfied their customers really are. The name of the survey is all wrong. It should represent what the survey exercise will really do for a company.

  • Customer Thinking Trends
  • How Customers Answer Our Questions
  • How Many Customers Will Take Our Survey
  • Customer Demographics
  • Anything But Customer Satisfaction Assessment
  • Interesting Information Without Real Action Steps

One of the stories I wrote about in my ebook – Success Stories in the Office – is about a sales and marketing team that set out to understand the kind of pizza most of their customers prefer. They had stellar results, by the way, and also built relationships that were not under the guise of selling more product. I mention this because they knew exactly where their limits and goals were in calling customers to get ONLY their pizza preferences. That initiative could have been called a Pizza Satisfaction Survey because it represented the real goal.

Getting information from and about customers is really valuable. To all the leaders and marketers out there, understand what kind of information you need and what methodology will get you that information.

That’s all I’m saying. Actually, no, I will be saying much more about this. It’s a topic about which I have many drama moments.

Darcie Davis
A career focused on finding the factors that inspire customer/client retention was shaped from, often naively, relentlessly asking questions. I am the founder of HUDDLE Sessions for Women which offer pop-up advisory boards.


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