The Shortcomings of Satisfaction Surveys
Traditional methods of measuring customer satisfaction have many shortcomings: They're too long, they don't focus on frontline learning, they make it impossible to close the loop and so on. In the original version of The Ultimate Question, we devoted a full chapter to examining these issues. Today, many of those shortcomings are well understood, but we have included an updated version of the critique from the original edition here.
Among the most commonly recognized shortcomings of customer satisfaction surveys are:
- Most surveys are too long. They create unnecessary complexity and waste customers’ time.
- They are designed to generate research reports, not to drive daily frontline learning and behaviors.
- They are often anonymous, which eliminates the possibility of closing the loop with individual customers.
- They are structured in the language of the researcher, not the customer.
- Response rates are typically low, so the results are unreliable.
- Often, the wrong customers respond—especially in business-to-business settings, where the senior executives responsible for purchase decisions rarely take the time to fill out surveys.
- The results are easily gamed and manipulated (think of the last time you dealt with a car dealer who pleaded for a top-box score).
Many of those issues are well recognized today, so although we devoted a chapter to them in the original book, we decided to devote the space in The Ultimate Question 2.0 to the more pressing issue of how you should measure and manage customer feedback if you want accurate, timely, credible insight into what your customers really feel right now. We have, however, included an updated version of that original chapter here as a reference.