Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Stop guessing. Ask your customer.

Why conduct customer satisfaction surveys?

Customer satisfaction is an essential ingredient to an organization’s sustainability and growth. Customer satisfaction measurement has been a requirement of the International Standards Organization, which specifies prerequisites for management systems, since 2000. The Baldrige National Quality Award, which distinguishes American businesses with outstanding business practices, also counts customer satisfaction management as a core criterion in its evaluation.

Beyond awards, the simple premise of customer satisfaction is that a satisfied customer will be cheaper to retain, to serve, and to upsell or cross-sell. It just makes basic financial sense.

What is a customer satisfaction survey?

How can you know whether customers are satisfied with a company’s products or services? The best way is to ask. There are many approaches about what to ask, how to ask, and when to ask.

The “what” can be a single Customer Experience metric—for example, Net Promoter Score—or a series of questions around certain topics or issues such as product quality, timely delivery, staff courtesy, and more.

The “how” can be qualitative research including observational research, focus groups, in-depth interviews, mystery shopper, and other approaches. It can also incorporate quantitative research such as one-on-one interviews, web and mail questionnaires, telephone interviews, and more.

The “when” can be a certain point on the buyer journey—just after a purchasing event, for example, or at periodic intervals or an ongoing, continuous listening.

History of customer satisfaction surveys

The concept of customer satisfaction is probably as old as Adam Smith’s theories of free markets. Many academics explored customer satisfaction through the lens of psychology in the 1970s. The concept of customer satisfaction surveying and measurement re-emerged in the 1980s with Total Quality Management (TQM) theories. A new concept, TQM posited that product quality is better measured with external metrics such as customer satisfaction than with internal metrics such as compliance with engineering and design specifications.

Since its introduction, the ACSI has remained essentially flat (~2% growth in 20 years!) despite overwhelming evidence of the economic benefits of high customer satisfaction. This attests to the lip service corporations have been paying to the customer satisfaction concept.

How do you build effective customer satisfaction surveys?

The effectiveness of a customer satisfaction survey relies on the questions asked and who answers.

Identifying what questions to ask in a survey is difficult. Most organizations would start constructing a survey by asking management what the company wants the survey to answer.

For example, imagine that a wireless carrier that just made a substantial capital investment in its call centers wants you to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. You interview the CEO and COO, and they are eager to know how their customers enjoy their newly upgraded customer service. Your survey includes tons of questions about customer service. The customers say that the call center staff is very nice and professional, and that wait times are reasonable. But guess what—customers are still switching to the competition. They are unsatisfied with the cost of the carrier’s plans and its coverage. You asked the wrong questions.

Developing questions for a customer satisfaction survey starts with exploratory qualitative research about the customer. Focus groups and in-depth interviews are common methods to uncover customer needs and requirements. Then, to avoid lengthy questionnaires, customers are asked to state the importance of each requirement.

Later, a quantitative survey evaluates the main customer requirements identified during the exploratory phase. It asks customers to rank the importance of each requirement. This survey also includes a question about the customer’s overall satisfaction with the product and service. The importance score the customer assigns to each of the requirements is then correlated with his or her overall satisfaction score for the company product and service. The correlation scores highlight the key drivers of customer satisfaction.

For more on choosing a primary Customer Experience metric download our whitepaper, “Choosing a Primary Customer Experience Metric”

The final stage of survey development is sampling and survey design.

As you can see, customer satisfaction surveys involve a lot of science. The complexity of the development process has led to the popularity of the Net Promoter Score system as a proxy for the customer satisfaction metric.

How Medallia does it?

Medallia has more than a decade of experience in customer satisfaction surveying. Medallia enterprise software collects omni-channel customer feedback data across every touchpoint, as conveniently as possible for customers, with a very high response rate. Omni-channel feedback can include:

  • Receipt-based customer satisfaction surveys
  • QR codes
  • Web intercept customer satisfaction surveys
  • Sweepstakes (which augment response rates)
  • E-mail surveys of customers for whom you have e-mail addresses, such as loyalty program members and store credit card holders
  • Other data collection modes, such as social media, comment cards, kiosks, handhelds, SMS, call centers, and more

Click here to learn how Medallia’s NPS program collects customer feedback, including customer satisfaction surveys.