Customer satisfaction surveys fail to satisfy

Pestering people for feedback is rapidly degrading the Customer Experience, ensuring their attitude towards both the purchase and research process is self-defeating, and tainting the outcomes. Instead, taking the term Customer Relationship more literally, will give a business way more actionable insights, and leave a warm afterglow.

It’s an intrusive feature of contemporary life, as with every transaction you immediately have something like a tax form shoved at you either physically or electronically. First impressions count, but according to Ron Kaufman, author of Uplifting Service, a “negative LAST impression” will ruin the moment of delight that brands work so hard at achieving.

You wouldn’t apply the same scorecard mentality to your personal life! Just imagine if your parting word with family or friends, is asking for a rating from 1 to 10 on “how was that for you?”, or “how likely would you recommend me to another friend, based on my performance”. Your customers are no different, and deserve the same respect. Believe it or not, they are real people, not an anonymous commodity.


While it’s great that making customers happy is now the universal priority, compared to “like it or lump it” attitudes of the past, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Driven by the Big Data maxim of “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, customer contact is defined by filling the KPI sample quota. But in return, you have to question the validity of responses completed in a rush, with their sole motivation being to make you go away and stop spamming them.

In our own recent experience with an international removalist, they were so insistent on having the satisfaction survey completed, they aggressively hounded us on email. And when we replied with a couple of constructive criticisms, there was no acknowledgement whatsoever of having received the feedback, or what they were doing about it. Feedback is a loop!

And there’s the dental visit that triggered firstly a satisfaction survey from the health insurer rating the dentist. And then a second one from the dentist about the actual visit experience. “Open wide” indeed! The tone of both requests were very cold and demanding.

A friend in the motor-trade questions his franchise’s post-sale satisfaction scores, his major beef being that they’re “one-dimensional”. And often skewed very black & white to either the very satisfied or deeply unsatisfied customers. There’s no colouring of the more complex shadings that go with any relationship.We hear a lot about building Brand Advocates, the people that will rave about you in their social circle. But how do you think that’ll be achieved by sending them boring surveys? The market research industry itself is now questioning traditional methods, because poor participant experience is driving down response rates and panel retention.For example, the respected Green Book- 2017 Consumer Participation in Research Study recommends “putting the respondent first” (what a concept!), and “using research as a brand engagement and relationship-building opportunity”.

The good news is there’s no obstacle to having a conversation with a customer like a friend, not a data point. A more open-ended chat will reveal what they really want from your brand, and how they honestly feel about you. The key is that people love helping you the human being, not a chatbot, and see it as a win-win. They just want to be respected and appreciated, and see the results of their time & effort.

We’re all so intensely busy, but the reward of a change in thinking about gauging customer satisfaction, will more than pay for itself. Being fun, addictive and ultimately satisfying!

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