The Customer Satisfaction Survey - relied upon as an indicator of a company's ability to satisfy its customers, and as a basis for critical decision making. Sadly the Customer Satisfaction is usually a waste of time at best, and an insult to your customers at worst.
I’m generally regarded as a bit of an “anti-survey” guy. While it’s true that I believe that surveys are often used as a justified excuse to doing absolutely nothing to solve a problem, I’m not against them per se. What I do have huge problem with is the Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Forget about the obvious problems inherent in surveys, like the fact that most of your customers won’t respond, and of those who do, most are dissatisfied (think of the times you take the time to do a survey - you’re either probably very happy or ranging from moderately to very unhappy with the particular product or service). Therefore, its rare that a survey actually gives you a representative view of your customer's state of mind. Also, let’s forget about the fact that your company probably does not have the resources to follow up with the negative responses anyway, making those respondents even more dissatisfied.
No, the reason I have a huge problem with these surveys is that they represent a huge waste of company resources under the guise of actually doing something and mask the actual problem.
Follow this example with me. You forget your wedding anniversary. You get home that evening, and you have the distinct feeling something is wrong. Things are not following the usual routine. Your spouse has all the warmth of Christmas in Chicago. You go for the usual kiss on the cheek, and you’re aware of a sharp pain in your shin where you’ve been kicked. Yep, you sense somethings’ wrong.
What do you do?
You may ask “Is something wrong my love?”, or “Did you have a bad day at the office?”. Or, if you’re the gutsier type, you may say something like “I sense this is a bad time for you, I’ll go and make us a special dinner”. What ever you do, you’ll do SOMETHING to FIX it. What you almost certainly won’t do is DO A SURVEY!!!.
Why won’t you do a survey? - Because you KNOW your significant other is dissatisfied.
For every customer who is not satisfied (or is satisfied) with your services, there is an employee in your company that knows. Heck, they may have even caused that feeling. If we’d spend the time and energy we spend in surveys at working with our staff at the points of interaction with our customers, or if we’d provide a way to listen to our staff when they try and tell us the negative impact of our policies, we’d be able to handle the root cause of a problem WHEN IT HAPPENS. If we have the right culture and staff, we’d fix the problem before it created any dissatisfaction for use to survey later.
In some of my recent speeches, I’ve told the story of Franks’ Subaru in California. I’m convinced I had the only bad Outback Subaru ever made. While not technically a lemon, it was certainly a small citrus fruit. It was in the service department a lot. The staff knew me well, and they knew I was VERY dissatisfied with them, their company, and the car. Yet, in my 3 years dealing with them, they never fixed their poor office systems that meant appointments were lost, or poor communications that meant committed delivery times were not met. What they did do is a survey to me, 6 months after I’d sold the car. I took a long time to politely describe my poor experience with them. They survey rep was genuinely distraught at my experience, and promised that Frank himself would call me. That was 4 years ago. I guess Frank is very busy.
The point is, the survey achieved nothing, because Frank cared as much about my satisfaction then as he did during the three years I dealt with his staff. If he’d genuinely cared about “the customer experience” he’d have empowered his staff to handle the problem appropriately at the time it occurred.
On one of my last visits to the service department, one of the staff did actually ask if there was something he could do. I replied that he could help me out of my lease into a new Subaru. He replied “Oh, we can’t do that”. My reply was “Actually you can, you just choose not do”. I bought a Mercedes.
One final note. I told this story in an event in New York, thinking that it was far enough from Irvine, California not to publicly embarrass Frank (I’ve obviously gotten past that issue now...). Later I got an email from an attendee at the event, commenting that he too knew of Franks’ Subaru. I looked at the signature line of his email, and noted that he was from the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. Bad service, like bad news, travels fast, and far.