Why bother measuring customer satisfaction?

Do customer service stats matter anymore?

In the era of Chief Customer Officers and customer centricity as a near religion I almost fear to ask that question, but I have to. I wonder if we haven’t created a multi-billion-dollar industry that serves us up a bunch of information that just isn’t that useful.

The other day I walked into my local Starbucks for my morning coffee and the cashier, whom I see every day and know by name, asked me if I ever do their online satisfaction surveys. When I said yes, she pulled a receipt out from beside the register and handed it to me. On it were instructions to complete an online CSAT survey in order to get a free drink. This is not the first time this has happened to me at this location.

These receipts are supposed to be randomly generated and given to the customer during the transaction. She held it back and gave it to me because she knew I was a “friendly” and would give them a good rating. It’s actually brilliant. They get a favourable rating and I get to feel special because I was chosen to get a free beverage on the QT. In actual fact, it’s a good customer retention strategy, but it renders the results of the company’s CSAT efforts null and void.

The whole experience got me thinking about measuring customer satisfaction and whether or not it was worthwhile. I know when I’ve been to car dealerships (both for buying and getting service) the sales person typically tells me that I am going to receive a call from a call centre about my experience and could I please help him out and give him a high rating. Well, unless he really pissed me off that’s pretty much assured now. And BAM! Valid results out the window.

It’s human nature. When presented with a system that seeks to measure our worth as employees, people, parents, whatever, we will try to find a way to game that system. I suspect (though can’t back it up) that we’ll do this even when it’s easier to just do the work. It’s why standardized testing in schools doesn’t work. Teachers teach to the test and all you get are good numbers not necessarily better equipped students. But that’s a topic for another day; let me get back to satisfaction results.

If any of these systems can be gamed, which I put to you they can, and the results therefore don’t give organizations valid information that they can actually use, are we fools to keep it up?

I’m not suggesting that delivering stellar customer service shouldn’t be a priority. Or that companies shouldn’t try to measure the results of their efforts. I just wonder if we have the measures wrong. Maybe it should just be about retention and referrals. Harder to draw direct lines from result to activity, but maybe more accurate. Otherwise we get caught up trying to move metrics that aren’t real.

What do you think? Are companies wasting money measuring customer satisfaction?


3 thoughts on “Why bother measuring customer satisfaction?

  1. A wonderful post as I deal with these issues daily! Part of the problem I encounter is that measurements are used to help achieve a target. Say that 90% CSI is a target. Then, if the number does or doesn’t meet target, we look for ways of getting higher and higher scores, such as you allude to in your article. Once scores go up, so do targets. It becomes a game of hitting a number, rather than figuring out how to best improve customer satisfaction.

    Another problem lies in scoring. In the auto industry, anything less than 90% CSI is a failure. As a consumer, a pretty good experience might rate a 7 or 8. You might think you’ve given a good score and that you helped the store. In reality, you’ve doomed them to the inquisition. “Why only 70%? That’s horrible.”

    Only when industry forgets the concept of target, and focuses on improvements, then we can actually “move the needle” on satisfaction.

    • Great points, thanks for sharing. That’s fascinating about the 90% threshbold. Is that because they know the system is flawed? I don’t think I’ve ever given a 10 out of 10, even when asked.

      • I’m not sure how it got there, to be honest. The focus on hitting a target hurts the whole process, and when expectations are out of whack, both those evaluating and those being evaluated become out of synch and the value of the program declines.

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