Standard Customer Satisfaction Surveys Don't Make the Grade in Improving Service Levels, Says Impact Achievement Group

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With customer surveys abounding, customer service levels should be increasing. Some reasons service is not improving include eight fundamental flaws in gathering customer feedback.

Asking the Right Questions: How to Get ROI on Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are everywhere -- at the store, on the phone, the Web -- and still customer service horror stories flourish. With all the solicitation for customers' opinions, companies should wonder why there isn't an increase in customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

According to a new white paper by Impact Achievement Group, "Asking the Right Questions: How to Get ROI on Customer Surveys," the data gathering is not contributing to a better understanding of customers. In part, there are fundamental flaws in common attempts to measure customer satisfaction.

Surveying the wrong customers:
Companies should consider how many customers have the time or are bored enough to provide time-consuming answers for the survey company. Forget random sampling -- companies need to survey their best customers, not those with an axe to grind. Notably, it is more common to survey the wrong customer in the business-to-business market (decision makers versus users).

No actionable feedback:
Frontline employees are adverse to long surveys -- they're not paid enough nor have the time. For employees to improve customers' experience they need to survey frequent customers -- who spend enough money -- to elicit appropriate solutions from management.

A disguised marketing initiative:
Many customer satisfaction surveys are nothing more than an attempt to gain data to help better market and advertise products and services. Years of this practice discourages customers from participating even in legitimate surveys, further limiting survey reliability.

Scores don't equal improved economics:
Research has consistently shown an unpredictable link between satisfaction scores and profitability/growth. For example, detailed analysis of surveyed customers has shown that between 60 and 80 percent of customers who've turned to another supplier have rated themselves as "satisfied" or "very satisfied."

One-size-fits-all solutions can't meet a company's unique needs:
Cookie-cutter surveys produces crummy data, yielding an "average" insight to customers' attitudes. Instead, companies need custom, local research that addresses the unique customer relationship and internal business practices. Simple, anecdotal feedback is of more use to management -- not to mention those on the front line.

Surveys focus on transactions -- not relationships:
Customers focus on the overall experience -- not individual transactions. Evaluating the quality of the relationship includes every detail of the customer's experience combined with the emotional and branding ties the customer has. Specific, transaction-oriented questions don't address customers' overall company experience.

Dissatisfaction as a result of the survey itself:
Intrusive, lengthy and ambiguous surveys are frustrating. When company decision makers forget this and use outside survey companies, they avoid direct customer dissatisfaction with the survey process. Worse, they entrust responsibility for customer information to people with very little -- if any -- interest in representing the company's brand positively. Lousy survey data, ignored by management, further add to customer dissatisfaction.

Manipulation destroys credibility:
Tying performance marks or dollars to the scores can encourage manipulation among employees. When punished or rewarded for goals they can't control or influence, employees instead focus on "gaming" the reward or eliminating the punishment.

"Asking the Right Questions: How to Get ROI on Customer Surveys," can be downloaded at

About Impact Achievement Group
Impact Achievement Group ( is a training and performance management consulting company that provides assessments, coaching, story-based interactive workshops, and simulations for managers at all levels of organizations worldwide. Impact Achievement Group helps companies dramatically improve management and leadership competency for bottom-line results. Company experts and co-authors of "People Leave Managers ... Not Organizations," Rick Tate and Julie White, Ph.D. are internationally recognized authorities in leadership development, human performance, service quality and communications.

Lee Klepinger                    

Gail DeLano
Fisher Vista/HRmarketer

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: on behalf of the company listed above.

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Lee Klepinger
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