• 02:37:46 pm on July 17, 2008 | 6
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

    Lots have been said about customer satisfaction see at the end of this entry for entries on this blog about customer satisfaction).  Organizations struggle to get their customer satisfaction scores under control, they “need” or want to get them to a certain number (for some reason, 76% seems to be the magical number most of them are trying to reach today, slightly lower than the 80% we saw couple of years ago).

    Tons of money, time, and resources are piled into these projects.  None of them realize the poor value of customer satisfaction as a stand-alone score.  I have been saying for quite some time that customer satisfaction does not rank very high in the list of metrics you should follow — yet, I get more and more requests everyday on how to calculate it and use it.  As a Public Service I am going to give you four secrets on how to score higher in customer satisfaction surveys:

    1. Know who to survey. what happens if you ask someone who is disgruntled or unhappy? there goes your customer satisfaction score down the drain. Know your customers, segment them, and pick the segment that is likely to return higher scores.  Survey them.  In any customer base there is always a 8-10% that would give you high scores regardless of what you do, another 10-15% or so will never like you no matter what.  There is also 20-30% that don’t like to give low scores in surveys.  Find out who the first and last group are and try to survey them and not the others.

    2. Select the words for your questions carefully. There are many books written on how to ask questions for surveys, comparing the different words you use and the results you get.  You see this being used in political surveys all the time: using support vs. agree, think vs. feel, and many more.  Truth is, how you write the question will bias the answer you get.  People react different when you use “think” instead of “feel”.  Psychologically, they feel that feelings are more private and their reaction is to guard their feelings by lowering scores so you don’t know how they feel.  They tend to give you higher scores when you ask for their thoughts.

    3. Change the scale for your metrics. Feedback “experts” will tell you that using smaller scales (e.g. from one through five)  will give you less granularity into your answers.  It will also give you higher scores.  Customers are not inherently out to give you poor scores, but the more choices they have the more likely they are to split hairs.  In smaller scales it is easier to get to an 80% of satisfaction, since that is only 2 out of 5 scores, than in a larger scale where it is 3 out of 10.  Using numbers instead of words (such as agree or disagree with their different variations) will give you higher scores; call it human nature, but we don’t like to agree.

    4. Coerce higher scores. If you offer a prize or a drawing as a result of the feedback your customers provide, you are bound to have higher scores.  Respondents have the feeling that if they are “nicer” to you they have a higher chance of winning.  They believe that if they give you lower scores you will throw away their entry and they won’t qualify for the contest or drawing.  This is mostly because they don’t understand the value of the feedback they provide, and the benefit for them of being honest: they are after the money.

    What is that? Manipulation?  Absolutely, no questions about it.  See why you should not use this metric? It is not going to improve your relationships with your customer, guide your customer service changes appropriately, or make you more liked by your customers.  Actually, if you rely on this metric to guide your operations you are likely to loose more customers this way.  Use with caution, good measure, and within a metrics program that looks at other metrics to make sure you don’t over-rely on it.

    Are you still using customer satisfaction as a metric? Did I convince you otherwise?

    Links to Customer Satisfaction Entries





  • Jonathan 8:16 am on July 18, 2008 | # | Reply

    Beyond the fact that you can manipulate any metric, including customer satisfaction, I find that most people don’t know why they want happy customers in the first place. See http://alignment.wordpress.com/2006/12/11/measuring-customer-satisfaction/ for a discussion.

  • Glenn 1:48 pm on July 18, 2008 | # | Reply

    Just another reason why the “Ultimate Question” (Net Promoter Score) shouldn’t be the only question you ask. I think the saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” applies here.

  • Esteban Kolsky 2:24 pm on July 18, 2008 | # | Reply


    Thanks for stopping by and your comments. As you probably saw in the other entries, I am completely against customer satisfaction as a metric under any circumstance for similar reasons you mention: it measures nothing that you can use.

    I favor instead focusing on effectiveness-based questions such as “how did we do” “did you get what you needed”. Short, sweet, and to the point. Liked your blog…


    I promised lots of people through the last few years that I would leave the NPS out of my rants against customer satisfaction and that is what has kept it off this blog. Apparently, some organizations seem to live and die by it — and that is exactly what is happening to them. Focus should never be on what the customer’s feelings (often impossible to manage and usually wrongly expressed by them) are – regardless of the question. It should be about performance and execution.

    So far I am doing fairly well on NPS rants… but it just might change in the near future. 🙂


  • Susan Abbott 4:00 pm on August 16, 2008 | # | Reply

    Great post. I was not aware of the feel/think issue on survey questions.

    And agree on everything said here about needing enough info to know WHY you are getting the scores you are getting, as well as LINKAGE to objectives/results. Bang on.

  • Mark 2:42 pm on August 28, 2010 | # | Reply

    Wow. Panera bread uses the NPS metric I know for a fact that almost every operator cheats on this. Atleast in the North East. I’ve heard DM’s telling you how you should get your customers to take the survey and let them know to score you at a 9-10 so they are a promoter. Great way to encourage operative correction. It’s a game and everyone wants to win because their is compesation involved and increasing job security. This company is horrible when it comes to this. Company full of liars.

  • Esteban Kolsky 12:29 pm on August 30, 2010 | # | Reply


    Which is why a single metrics, be it NPS, CSAT, Loyalty, or what-not, is such a bad idea — much better to correlate NPS or whatever other metric to operational metrics (KPI) and track changes to the business metrics that matter.

    Thanks for the read!

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