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Break the Bad Habits of Measuring Customer Satisfaction    [Date Added : 07/02/2005 ]
When it comes to measuring their customers' satisfaction, too many companies have settled into a comfortable rut of changing their approaches to get the results they want. Ironically, the more critical renewal business is in a company, the greater the emphasis on inflating customer satisfaction metrics, and the greater the tendency to design research programs that deliver results expected. This doesn't happen overnight; it is a gradual slide into the bad habit of designing research to get the results you want.

Break the bad habits of measuring customer satisfaction to get the results your company wants by going after these myths:

- Selecting the most satisfied customers for customer surveys. This happens more than anyone would care to admit. Be sure to ask all customers for their feedback.

- Over-sampling to compensate for small sample sizes. This can also skew customer satisfaction results by giving you again only the most active and, therefore, most positive customers you have. Re-think the frequency of your measurements and the events that are driving them.

- "The monkeys are running the zoo" data collection approach. When a department's bonus plan is based on customer satisfaction measures, they should not be running the research program to get that data. That's equivalent to letting monkeys run a zoo. The temptation to inflate results is just too great when this happens - get either an outside firm to do it or have a department with no stake in the research results complete the surveys and analyze them.

- A culture that hates tough questions because they see customer affection as equity. So many manufacturing companies - and most definitely software vendors - have this broad impression their customers like them and that affection is equity. These same companies hate the tough questions about why customer satisfaction isn't translating into greater sales. Questions like "If our customers love us so much why aren't they adding our products in other areas?" Cultures that kill these questions need to re-think their focus.

- Questions that an organization should be ashamed to use. In many customer satisfaction surveys, the questions are all about what's right with companies. Many companies have made this a best practice - the best practice of shielding their management and themselves of the truth of their customers.

Bottom line: It's time to go and shoot some sacred cows of customer affection being equity and get serious about really making customer satisfaction scores jump. Measuring like you mean it instead of how the powers that be want customer satisfaction measures to read saves the future for growth instead of confusion.

(extract of "Measuring Customer Satisfaction Like You Mean It," by Louis Columbus, E-Commerce Times, June 24, 2005. Copyright 1998-2005 ECT News Nework, Inc.)
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