Interpreting Customer Survey Results


Interpreting Survey Results

When you’re analyzing customer satisfaction survey results, the most important goals are minimizing the low scores and improving the top scores. It is important to monitor the “top two-box” satisfaction number, which is the combined percentage of those saying they are very or somewhat satisfied. It is essential, however, to call out to management the proportion of customers who are dissatisfied and to reduce those percentages. Insights into how to do that are found by learning what those who provide high ratings have to say and reviewing the results of those who are dissatisfied with performance.

1. Trends in Satisfaction Score

Observing the top-two box percentage over time will reveal where a company is improving and provide warning signs of what needs improvement. Percentages are a useful means of communicating results in customer satisfaction research because they are readily understood by most people. Moreover, they are more aligned with business objectives (increasing the percentage of people who are satisfied and minimizing those who are dissatisfied).

Example of Trend Report in Overall Satisfaction


 A succinct way to measure how well a company is succeeding in minimizing low scores and improving top scores is to calculate the satisfaction differential by subtracting the bottom two-box score—the combined percentage of those saying they are very or somewhat dissatisfied—from the top two-box score. A company that is successful on this metric will see this number increasing over time. The table below illustrates that score for the example trend report.


Competitive benchmarks for customer satisfaction can be difficult to come by because this is typically proprietary information. Moreover, competitors’ results cannot be accurately interpreted without knowing the specifics of question wording and the scales used. The satisfaction ratings for the recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award given by the U.S. Department of Commerce, however, provide some insight into those companies that have been recognized for achievements in quality and performance.

 Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Recipients’ Satisfaction Ratings


2. Find Sources of Dissatisfaction

To increase the top two-box score next quarter, it is critical to understand what is driving the bottom two-box scores. There are two easy ways to do that:

– Review the open-ended comments. Reading the volunteered comments following up on the rationale for the satisfaction rating is essential. The remarks among the most satisfied customers will shed light on what a company is doing well. They may also provide early warning signs if satisfied customers voice concerns with a service, product, or customer support experience. Dissatisfied customers will be vocal about the rationale for their satisfaction rating and will provide actionable suggestions for how to improve.

– Cross-tabulate by satisfaction rating. A key analysis includes looking at the people who are really happy and those who are not happy. Cross-tabulation features make comparisons between satisfied and unsatisfied customers fast and easy. The tendency in analyzing customer satisfaction results is to focus on those company, product, or service attributes that elicit the greatest dissatisfaction overall—price, for example. Most customers will want a lower price regardless of their satisfaction level. It is more revealing to compare how satisfied and dissatisfied customers feel about various aspects of the product or service relationship. The gap in satisfaction ratings for each attribute will help prioritize areas for improvement—the areas with the greatest difference should have the highest priority. In the example cross-tabulation table below, price has the lowest top two-box satisfaction score among all customers. The gap between satisfied and dissatisfied customers, however, is biggest for customer service, so that is the area with the most impact on overall satisfaction.

Example Cross Tabulation by Satisfaction Rating


 3. Present Findings and Action Items

Collecting customer satisfaction data is useful only if there is a process established to deliver recommendations, implement action plans, assign plan owners, and monitor plan execution. Once the results have been compiled and analyzed, they should be presented to management with recommendations for resolving the identified weaknesses. The recommendations should be actionable – reduce response times to four hours for example – and the person responsible and the resources allocated to meet that goal should be determined. There should be periodic meetings to evaluate progress on the action plan and the next customer satisfaction survey should evaluate progress on that goal.

  4. Contact Customers

If possible, dissatisfied customers should be personally contacted to see if there is something that can be done to improve their perception of the business. This is important not simply to increase the odds of keeping that customer but also to prevent negative word of mouth. The personal contact itself may succeed in doing that. Additionally, a discount or free product should be considered. If policies or products are changed based on customers’ feedback, those customers should be contacted to let them know about those changes and that their feedback was taken seriously.

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One Response to Interpreting Customer Survey Results

  1. Neil Hartley says:

    I think simply “reviewing” customer comments is insufficient if there is any kind of voume involved. Rather an institutionalised analysis of these comments is required that enables idenitification of satisfaction drivers (including unknown unknowns), with link back to customer comments and then the ability to identify drivers by attribute (demographic, touchpoint etc) such that real action can be taken at the point of greatest influence.
    Rgds, Neil

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