Customer Satisfaction–the Ultimate Vanity Metric?


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Almost every company measures Customer Satisfaction or its variations at considerable expense and effort.

Some companies attempt to use the metric for advertising. The metric is supposed to convince a shopper to join the ranks of the company’s customers because they are supposedly 97% satisfied. These numbers are impossible for a consumer to validate, methodologically or anecdotally. Besides, there may be information floating in Social Media that disputes the company’ customer satisfaction claims, however unfairly. In my opinion, brandishing the customer satisfaction scores, without complete transparency, will more likely lead to erosion of trust than to increase in sales. Social Customers trust each other’s experiences more than they do brand claims.

Many companies use the customer satisfaction metric to judge departmental performance while their customers keep churning, for reasons the measured business unit may have no control over whatsoever. They do well if the last calendar period metric is scored higher than the previous one. If the last score is lower, bonuses are not paid and changes to a status quo are demanded. Sometimes the change is a switch to different methodology of measuring customer satisfaction.

Disconnect from the Customer Satisfaction Score, regardless of methodology, and from specific and systematic action that targets improvement of customer experience, makes the score an ultimate vanity metric.

Richard H. Levey wrote that

“True customer insight requires first knowing (discovering) which attributes matter to the customer and then determining how the firm is performing on those attributes. If a customer’s experience occurs over multiple interactions and various media, then each needs to be measured to drive insight precision. ” Stop Measuring Customer Satisfaction and Start Understanding It. (emphasis mine).

I would add-stop counting the clicks, “likes” and re-tweets, and start understanding WHY customers do what they do. Stop tabulating survey scores and start reading the comments—you may learn something that would help promote an action of positive change.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gregory Yankelovich
Gregory Yankelovich is a Technologist who is agnostic to technology, but "religious" about Customer Experience and ROI. He has solid experience delivering high ROI projects with a focus on both Profitability AND Customer Experience improvements, as one without another does not support long-term business growth. Gregory currently serves as co-founder of, the software (SaaS) used by traditional retailers and CPG brand builders to create Customer Experiences that raise traffic in stores and boost sales per customer visit.


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