To get better customer satisfaction metrics, companies need to stop distorting customer satisfaction metrics. They also need to use the right type of market and user research.
The ultimate goal of doing market research is to provide support for decision making. However, short-term business goals combined with research methodology ignorance have the potential to undermine the effort to provide actionable insights.
Customer satisfaction measurement is a good example of research going wrong in many companies. The search for linear, quantitative and simple metrics connecting customer satisfaction to the bottom line is an understandable but complicated endeavor.
To identify relevant metrics, companies need a deeper customer understanding of the specific customer experience with their products and services. This requires doing more market research and UX research they have patience and willingness to pay for.
Stop Distorting Customer Satisfaction Metrics
it is not surprising that many companies cling to metrics such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the era of:
- Constant “cheaper, faster, and better” promises. These are based on the illusion that data will magically and automatically produce insights without human intervention (i.e. artificial intelligence)
- Management’s satisficing behavior (i.e. content with meeting minimum requirements with the least effort and cost),
Not long ago, I had a similar experience to the one Tom Fishburne referred to in the article accompanying this cartoon.
I was witness to a cry for help to give the highest rating in a customer satisfaction survey for the portion of my restaurant experience during a cruise vacation. The waiters’ livelihood was depending on it.
On the last day, my family and I got a full explanation of the rating scale, with a strong emphasis on the higher end of the scale. We all could hear the pleading tone in the request.
Although the dining experience was acceptable, it was not worthy of a 10. Consequently, guilt and anger were strongly present in our actual internal reaction, because we were asked to lie. In the end, none of us filled out the survey.
We all lost. The company lost the opportunity to really learn about the customer experience and how to improve it. We, as customers, lost the chance to make things better for ourselves in the next trip, if we ever go back.
As Fred Reichheld, the creator of the NPS, recently admitted, many companies are misusing and abusing this metric.
One common misuse is connecting NPS to compensation and bonuses is highly problematic, since it encourages scenarios like the one described above. Stop doing that.
Dig Deeper with Qualitative Research
Many factors influence the perception of customer experience. Among these factors are:
- The peak and end points of the experience, its saliency.
- Time-lag between the experience and measurement affecting the memory of the experience.
- Expectations prior to the experience.
- Past experiences with the specific product/service and other indirectly related products and services from your company.
- General brand perceptions (halo effect).
Before defining customer satisfaction metrics and making them part of a satisfaction tracking program, we need to use qualitative research to understand the influence of these factors in the customer experience and operationalize them.
After defining such metrics, we still should continue using qualitative research in the tracking process. It will allow us to understand how these metrics evolve over time.
We can’t escape the fact that customers continue to be exposed to the competition and social and cultural changes that affect their expectations.