No Matter How You Say ‘Data’ It’s All Important: The Rare Case of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Quick, use the word ‘data’ in a sentence. Do you say ‘DAY – TUH’ or ‘DA -DA’? Don’t worry there is not a right way to pronounce it and how you do might be more about where you grew up than anything else. No matter how you say ‘data’ most of us can agree it is a pretty important thing to have when making a decision. It might be even more important when you don’t have it at all…

Surveys Provide Insight

In understanding customer experience many companies rely on surveys. Of course, it is a great tool to directly ask questions of your customers. To understand their wants and needs. Their points of delight – perhaps an unexpected positive experience in their client journey. And even their points of disappointment and dissatisfaction. The latter is often a focus as companies better align their segmentation strategies and customer experience to the needs and expectations of their clients. For a hotelier this might mean segmenting customers along price points and segmenting their portfolio of hotels from the high-end boutiques to the family friendly day-cation resorts. Surveys not only guide strategic design they also help determine if you are ‘hitting the mark’ in terms of delivering on promised expectations. The challenge of course with data from surveys is often it only shows part of the picture.

Generally, a well-designed customer survey delivered in the right format (different customer segments prefer different mediums), might receive a 15%-20% response rate. Some are even lower. Small samples are not a problem for a skilled data scientist. With the data super-power of inferential statistics, they can tease good findings out of even the tiniest of responses to make conclusions about the larger group. It only requires the sample to be representative, meaning the people who responded are a lot like the people who did not respond. However, in customer satisfaction surveys that is rarely the case.

When Data Goes Missing

Think about your own experiences with surveys. Maybe you complete them, maybe you don’t. What motivates you when you choose either? Personally, I tend to complete more surveys than others, born mostly out of my curiosity and my interests in data analytics. However, customers tend to complete satisfaction surveys following one of two experiences – things were wonderful and exceeded their expectations and they want to ‘let management know’ how great everyone is doing or… it was a complete disaster. As a result, customer satisfaction surveys often have a ‘bi-modal’ response profile – people either love what you are doing or hate it. But is this really a clear picture of the company’s efforts to bring satisfaction to their customers? Recall this is a small sample of customers. What about people who did not respond?  

Customers who did not complete the survey are signally they are neither over-the-moon nor disappointed, simply satisfied.  

Hidden Value

Interpreting non-responders might be the beginning of heated water-cooler debates. The short answer is the absence of data is data itself. Useful data. Customers who did not complete the survey are signally they are neither over-the-moon nor disappointed, simply satisfied. Other data of the customers behavior could help confirm this conclusion and should not be overlooked. However, relying only on the known data might result in an over response to dissatisfaction or worse an under response to an overly confident conclusion of satisfaction. ‘DAY – TUH’, ‘DA-DA’ and now we can add ‘NA-DA’ are all important. When it comes to understanding customer behavior, what you do not know can tell you a whole lot. 

My opinions are my own

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