Two Questions to Find Customer Satisfaction

I continue to be asked to participate in customer satisfaction surveys by phone, e-mail and even in my mailbox. I keep wondering who’s spending their money just to get confusing and useless information.

Most surveys ask you to rate your level of satisfaction on multiple scales: numerically from 1-10; by how satisfied or dissatisfied you were—or do you agree or disagree, or how much you agree (i.e. somewhat, not at all, etc). Then the people (or the consultant who is administering the surveys) create and interpret bar charts, line graphs and pie charts. In the end, giving people a lot of answers to choose from yields lots of different answers—in all “shades of gray.”

But there is a better way to determine if your customers were truly satisfied. Time and again studies have shown that customer loyalty is fleeting for all but the most satisfied of customers, because any customer who is not “completely satisfied,” is dissatisfied to some degree, and/or with “something.” That unknown “something” is the beginning of why and how you are going to lose customers and why some people are never going to by from you, or how competitors can steal your business.

I propose one essential question to ask; with just two multiple-choice follow-up questions. The first question will tell you how many of your customers are really satisfied—and thus likely to be loyal or buy again. I’m giving this idea away—but if anyone wants to send me money for this cost-savings advice, please feel free to contact me.

Question 1: Would you recommend this (product, service, supplier, etc.) to a friend? Two boxes to check: ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (you can add ‘maybe’ or ‘partially’). If the answer is yes, the customer is satisfied. If the answer is ‘no,’ the customer is not satisfied—in some regard.

Some respondents might have given an answer of 7 or 8 on a ten-point scale, or “mostly satisfied” on a five-level word scale, but let’s face the facts. If you wouldn’t recommend “it” to a friend, you aren’t really satisfied with “it.” You need to discover why a customer is hesitant or resistant to telling a friend.

The next question I learned from my 3 year old. It is the essential question in all learning.

Question 2: Why? For both of them you can either provide a list of possible reasons for “Why YES?” and “Why NO?” But you’ll never get the list comprehensive enough. Somehow managers like to lump things into categories to report them. The problem is you can’t solve the “average” of problems. You must solve each one individually. Yes, they may share some characteristics, but each one is slightly different, and you are trying to find the root cause.

So I suggest you offer a very short list: (No more than 10 possible reasons, as few as 3-5, and let respondents check as many as apply), with a place after each one checked for “Explanation” where the consumer actually writes in the reason(s). When you process these kinds of responses, then you can group them IF a single solution will solve several of them. Example: The shared answer to”it broke too easily”, “it wasn’t user-friendly”, it didn’t work”, “it’s confusing”, may be a badly designed product, or lack of customer education on how to properly use and get the most out of the product. You want know which until you read the individual explanations of WHY?

Bottom line: You won’t have very many impressive graphs and charts. You’ll just have a percentage: customers that were truly satisfied. The rest (100 minus the satisfied percentage) were not—to varying degrees. The follow-up questions and answers will provide more detail about why and with what.

This is how the real world works folks. If you want to delude yourselves, or practice victory by changing the definition of the goal (or “losing with style” as I like to call it), go ahead. But if you want the truth: Ask one question, with a YES or NO answer, and then follow up with why. Then you’ll know the truth about customer satisfaction.