Interpreting Customer Survey Results

November 6, 2009


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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Customer Satisfaction Survey Incentives

August 3, 2009


Customer Satisfaction Survey Incentives

It seems to be becoming a fairly common practice these days (at least here in the U S) to include a customer satisfaction survey invitation printed on receipts at check-out that offer a discount on a future purchase as the survey incentive. After receiving three survey invitations on my receipts in a matter of only a few days, I was prompted to suggest offering a special discount code or a free promotional item as an incentive for customer satisfaction surveys as a recent survey tip. I have received a bit of feedback on the potential data bias involved with offering a discount code as an incentive so I would like to expound on that a bit.

Depending upon the type of survey and the survey audience, offering an incentive is usually very effective in improving response rates. People like the idea of getting something for their time and Zoomerang has found that incentives typically boost response rates by 50% on average.

The use of discount codes as incentives to increase customer satisfaction survey response rates can be beneficial in reducing non-response bias since customer surveys without an incentive tend to capture only the discontented. Using a discount code incentive can help increase participation from the vast majority of your customers in the middle (those between very satisfied and very unsatisfied) giving you better overall results. In addition to gaining insight into your customer’s shopping experience, offering discount codes as incentives can both stimulate repeat business and strengthen your brand.

The data compiled from the survey respondents can be used as an additional marketing research tool providing you with more customer insights. Offering a discount code incentive provides you with information regarding what comprised the customer’s original purchase as well as if and how they utilize the discount code incentive resulting in additional actionable data, not unlike many of the current Customer Loyalty programs that are growing in popularity.

As for offering free promotional items as incentives I suggested that since they seem to be fewer and far-between these days and I for one miss the once plentiful bounty, especially t-shirts. The ad-wear that we wore back in the day was generally given to us free of charge in exchange for being a walking billboard, but I digress….

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Social Media Is The New Customer Service

June 5, 2009


Social Media Customer Service

According to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media and 85% believe a company should not only be present but also interact with its consumers via social media. The study revealed 56% of users feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

When asked about specific types of interactions, Americans who use social media believe:

Companies should use social networks to solve my problems – 43%

Companies should solicit feedback on their products and services – 41%

Companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand – 37%

Companies should market to consumers – 25%

The study suggests that social media-driven customer service can be an effective tool for more credible problem-solving. Your customers are talking about you (whether you are listening or not) and there are many tools that can help you hear what they are saying.

Take Comcast as an example. They took a well-known history of bad customer service and turned it into a Twitter following of over 20,000 people who seem to appreciate their outreach. Frank Eliason and his team of 10 fields several hundred tweets a day, a mix of customer-service issues, spam and feedback on other Comcast Twitterers. @comcastcares has received about 30,000 public tweets to date and gets some 6,000 emails a month through an address it posts on blog comments.

Social media is clearly changing the way brands must manage and monitor their brands. The cost of poor customer service can have an immediate negative impact while the benefit of good customer service can do just the opposite. One thing is almost certain – you can be assured either impact will have a reach far and wide.

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When to Conduct Customer Satisfaction Research

May 22, 2009



Customer satisfaction is tied directly to profitability. If your customers are happy they tend to be loyal. If they’re loyal they not only buy more, they refer other customers. Well-established research by Bain & Company found that, for many companies, an increase of 5% in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%. The same study found that it costs six to seven times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one.

 Moreover, one bad experience can outweigh a whole lot of good experiences. Because of e-mail and social media, that bad experience can quickly be broadcast to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of other customers, magnifying its impact. So if your business is doing something that frustrates customers, you need to know right away.

 It is critical to give customers the opportunity to provide feedback about their overall satisfaction level and specific likes and dislikes. It is equally important to consistently measure and monitor that input. Without an effective customer satisfaction research program in place, your company will be losing business, missing opportunities, and putting itself at a competitive disadvantage.

 Many companies wonder how frequently they should conduct customer satisfaction surveys. The answer depends on the size of the customer base and the purpose of the research. There are two key types of surveys, and they serve very different purposes:

 – Transactional surveys solicit feedback directly from the product or service user about that particular encounter. They are conducted immediately after each customer transaction. For example, a survey may be administered after a call center experience.

  – Relationship surveys collect input from people who have an ongoing relationship with the company and have had multiple transactions. They are regularly scheduled surveys, often quarterly. The respondents typically are responsible for deciding whether to continue the working relationship.

Transactional surveys are sent out at the discretion of whoever has contact with customers – but the data should be collected immediately after the interaction while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind.

 Relationship surveys should be spread out over the course of a year. Here are a couple of points to keep in mind:

 – If there is only one data point for each year, a single event could have a large impact on results

 – For companies with a sufficiently large customer base – at least 10,000 – relationship surveys can be conducted on a continuous basis but reported on a monthly basis to address the effects of seasonality or single events

In many cases conducting both transactional and relationship surveys may be appropriate. For example, a company may conduct transactional research for customer service purposes and relationship research for routine checkups on the health of the business.

For pre-designed customer satisfaction survey templates visit the Zoomerang Customer Satisfaction Center. You can also find more online survey tips here at the Zoomerang blog to help you make your survey experience as successful as possible.

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How To Create Devoted Customers

March 6, 2009


Andy Hanselman is one of the UK’s leading experts in business competitiveness. I recently came across his practical guide to creating competitive advantage and improving business performance that I thought had some great points. Once you have viewed his presentation, be sure to visit the Zoomerang Customer Satisfaction Survey Center where you can find pre-designed customer satisfaction templates that will help you gather the feedback you need to build your customer satisfaction to customer devotion. Also, be sure to visit Andy’s blog for more of his business competiveness insights.

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14 Things You Must Know About Your Customers and Prospects

February 12, 2009



 Infusionsoft, the leader in marketing automation software for small businesses, has shared their list of 7 things you must know about your customers.

Number seven on their list did not come as a surprise: “How your customers feel about your business”. Feedback from your customers is the best way to improve your products/services, meet your customer’s needs, and attract more customers.


Infusionsoft also shared 7 things you absolutely must know about your prospects, most of which can be easily compiled using a simple online survey.  Interestingly enough, the number seven must-know prospect tip is “What keeps them (your prospects) up at night?” The potential responses to a question like that can’t even be imagined. When you compose similar survey questions you should list a few choices as answers (finances, family, health, etc…) and offer the option to “select all that apply” as well as “other”. When you include an “other” option you can gather open-ended responses in order to gain further insights into your survey participant. Most likely they will share responses that you hadn’t even considered.


For additional customer insights visit the Customer Engagement Network, and for more survey insights view our additional survey tips.

Building A Feedback Loop Into The Tactical Business Plan

January 23, 2009


Savvy business people are finding that the way to be nimble in the marketplace is to build a continuous feedback loop into several places within the tactical business plan.


Zoomerang offers some of the ways that surveys can improve the efficiency, effectiveness and profitability of your business. To make it easier we’ve developed templates on each of the survey types below, using proven market research techniques. These templates will give you an edge, and the right data, as you look for feedback on new ideas for your business.


Get Customer Feedback


One of the most popular uses of surveys is as a yardstick for customer satisfaction. Annual, semiannual or quarterly surveys serve as a barometer of your business’ health and allow you to monitor your performance over time. In addition, many businesses send out satisfaction surveys after each customer transaction, using the survey as a way to judge the effectiveness of individual employees and the product itself.


Test the Concept


Expanding your audience to include prospects allows you to check the receptivity of the market to a product enhancement or a new offering. Sending a survey to two segments – a portion of your customers and a portion of your prospects – provides visibility into whether prospects require different messaging or education than was required to win your current set of customers.


Check Your Vendors


Surveys can help evaluate which vendors are best equipped to deliver the raw materials required to fulfill your product plan. You can send out a survey asking about their shortest lead-time, their standard shipping terms, etc. By downloading their answers into a spreadsheet, you can sort your vendors by those most capable of meeting your new requirements for faster shipping or expanded capacity.


Plan and Evaluate Your Event


A survey is an easy way to collect multiple data points from a large group of people. Zoomerang users in the marketing and event planning departments have deployed surveys to ask representatives about their arrival times to a trade show, their requested shifts, etc. and have used that information to plan their event. Afterward, they deployed a separate survey to ask the representatives for their opinion on the value of the tradeshow, the number of sales attributed to it, and whether they plan to attend next year.


Gauge Employee Satisfaction


Online surveys are an ideal mechanism for soliciting employee feedback, since they provide the anonymity that is essential to candid feedback. Many companies use surveys to conduct management evaluations and to ensure privacy Zoomerang can even deploy the survey for you.


Share Best Practices


Guidance is golden and Zoomerang users within associations or even loose groups of vendors are finding surveys an effective way to gather wisdom that they can’t find elsewhere. A quick survey on a how to handle a difficult business question generates responses that can be directly put into practice.


Get It On Your Calendar


Give yourself enough lead time to really learn what the survey reveals: too frequently surveys are done at the last minute, which makes it impossible to act on the insight. In addition to a quarterly customer satisfaction survey, consider sending surveys using this rotation:


Operational surveys after each transaction

Prior to regularly scheduled tradeshows and events

Marketing concept tests as product development dictates

Quarterly employee reviews

Quarterly vendor surveys

Semi-annual product releases

Annual employee satisfaction surveys

Benefit queries before changes in annual plans


Survey Deployment


There are several ways to deploy your surveys and each method has its own advantages. A one-time email broadcast to your entire customer or prospect base is a thorough way to communicate. If you host your survey on your Website, you send a signal to prospects, customers and vendors that you are constantly listening to them and receptive to feedback.


Building a real-time feedback loop into a number of sections of your annual business plan can provide you with a way to be nimble – and knowledgeable – in your operations. Examine your calendar and your plan and ask yourself: would it help to test this concept or gather more information? If so, visit the Zoomerang website to assist you in gathering your needed insights.

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