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Satisfaction vs. Dissatisfaction: What to REALLY Focus On

This week’s guest post comes from fellow CEB researcher Judy Wang of the Customer Contact Council, which serves customer service executives.

As customer service organizations, we’re no strangers to gathering feedback. But with all of the sources of gathering data and volumes of information we get back, it can be a daunting task to know what to do next. It’s important, therefore, to not just ask the right questions, but define the right focus for your answers. That means setting out with a goal in mind, and understanding how you want to interpret your results.

Take this question that we recently received from one of our members regarding the focus of customer surveys. Specifically, this executive asked: is it more important to focus on customer satisfaction or customer dissatisfaction when analyzing customer feedback? In other words, after receiving answers from customers, what viewpoint should we use to understand the results?

And that’s an interesting question. We would say that while satisfaction is on a linear scale– and it is certainly important to understand how you perform along it– it is much more valuable to consider satisfaction as a downward metric. That means focusing on the areas of dissatisfaction and trying to eliminate those drivers. (MREB members, access more information: Conducting Customer Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Profitability Research)

One way of really eliciting areas of dissatisfaction is to learn about those customer failure points. Ask customers about why and how their service request did not work, rather than what did. This gives the customers an opportunity to share with you what was bad about their service experience, and where you can improve. Take a look at the following survey questions from our study on online service experiences:

  1. Which of the following best describes why you didn’t obtain the product help/support you were seeking?
  2. If visiting the support site is not your first step in trying to solve your problem, what did you do first?

Both of these questions attempt to understand what went wrong, rather than what went well. By asking customers to choose specific options, you’ll learn where you can focus your attention in terms of really improving your customers’ experience.

So that’s the approach we would recommend: think about your surveys (and results) from a downward, dissatisfaction frame. Doing so lets you focus your efforts making improvements, and bringing more customers from the dissatisfied end of the scale to the satisfied.

What do you think? Where do you focus your attention when analyzing your customers’ feedback? How is this approach valuable or not?

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