Agency SelectionCustomer Satisfaction & LoyaltyCustomer SurveysMarket Research

Customer Satisfaction Survey Results: Jumping To Conclusions

Satisfied or Not???

If you are tracking customer satisfaction at regular intervals, say quarterly or monthly, you may have found that your colleagues want explanations for every increase or decrease in scores—even minor ones. Do the latest results show slight customer satisfaction improvement? If so, they want to know why. If the latest results show a down trend, they want to know why.

In some organizations, I find that people are quick to congratulate themselves on improvements, but willing to dismiss declines as possible “blips.” In other organizations, the culture seems to predisposition people to just the opposite: caution regarding positive news, and anguish to bad.

If you are new to managing such projects, here are some ways to handle those prone to such extremes:

  • Remind them that you are tracking a trend. Especially during the first few measurement periods, we have to be cautious about drawing any hard conclusions. It may take a few measurements before you know what kind of “blip” is noise, versus a true increase or decrease.
  • Be sure you are aware of contextual phenomenon. Minor fluctuations are often found to be due to things such as awareness of recent stock price performance changes, temporary events (recent marketing campaign halo effect), competitor news, and organizational changes. In some organizations, satisfaction scores can even be seasonal!
  • Offer follow-up interviews. In-depth interviews (IDIs) with a subset of survey participants can be a great way to explore hypotheses you and your colleagues may have about certain results.


Customer Satisfaction Surveys That Don’t Satisfy

Ultimately, if you find it hard to manage how colleagues interpret customer satisfaction research results, it may be a clue that the survey design needs improvement. Does it include one or two open-ended questions to capture unscripted customer feedback? Does it capture specific types of customer experiences so you can see how they predict satisfaction levels? Are you capturing both satisfaction attitudes and loyalty behaviors?

We know that customer satisfaction is important, but we also know there is no one-size-fits-all approach.   Different researchers approach it differently which is appropriate—companies in different industries, with different types of client bases, do need different approaches.


Is That a Blip In Our Data, Or Are They Really Happy to See Us?

If you are new to measuring customer satisfaction, it is important to design the survey with an eye towards what types of data your internal audience will find most useful—and to be prepared to address the inevitable questions about upward or downward shifts. Whenever possible, do work with a market research professional experienced in measuring satisfaction in different industries—they will be able to advise you on how to design the survey and interpret the results.


Planning to hire a market research agency? Check out our online class on how to do it.


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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