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What Respondents Tell Us About Satisfaction Surveys Used for Compensation

A few months back I wrote about the dangers of tying results from satisfaction surveys to compensation. The feedback I got was mixed, so I decided to do a quick survey to see what the public thinks.

Of the 72% who were asked to do a follow-up survey after some type of transaction, about 1 in 6 (16.1%) were told by their sales rep what rating to give. While 1 in 6 is alarming, the reality is probably worse because those that do try to influence responses do so repeatedly. My personal guess is that more compensation is impacted the more likely it is that customers will be asked to answer in a certain way.

Among those who had been asked to do a follow-up I asked some questions about the experience of doing a survey.

  • 74% agreed with the statement "I don't/wouldn't like being told how to answer the survey by the person helping me" and of these 61% agreed strongly. This points to the possibility that this might be a bad strategy on the part of the sales rep (see next bullet for more), but ultimately it is always bad for the company (either the act of asking makes customers less satisfied or it generated corrupt date).
  • 37% agreed that they would feel guilty about giving a rating other than the one the salesperson asked them to give. I know myself that when I've been asked, I have generally complied. Despite my annoyance (both as a customer and a researcher) at being asked, a combination of guilt (I tend to like the sales people I buy from) and fear (would a low rating mean worse service moving forward?) got me to comply.
  • About 1/3rd of respondents agreed that they are surveyed too often or that no one pays attention to the results. I'd hate to have my compensation tied to results from people who feel over surveyed or don't think it matters.
  • The best news is that 80% agreed that asking people to do surveys is a sign the company cares about them and 71% agreed that businesses that conduct follow up surveys are more attuned to their customers' needs than those that do not.

I believe these data support my position. Satisfaction surveys can be used effectively to drive business decisions and with that results, but tying them to compensation undermines their reliability and thus makes them less effective for decision-making.

Worth adding that firms making extensive use of follow-up transaction surveys have a responsibility to inform customers of how they are used. For example, telling customers that a new service, extended hours, more staffing, better training or whatever came about as a result of their feedback in the surveys, will improve their view of your product or service and increase the chance they will participate in future surveys. Unlike the example above, the company wins both ways.

President, TRC

Rich brings a passion for quantitative data and the use of choice to understand consumer behavior to his blog entries. His unique perspective has allowed him to muse on subjects as far afield as Dinosaurs and advanced technology with insight into what each can teach us about doing better research.  


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Guest Sunday, 20 September 2020

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