The fallacy of the customer satisfaction survey
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
23 June 2014
Customer satisfactions surveys just attract the extremes
Talk about a survey that doesn’t really matter. Reports last week from the American Customer Satisfaction Index stated that McDonald’s ranked dead last in customer satisfaction among 12 fast food chains – for the 20th year in a row.
“I bring this up because customer satisfaction, while important, is not what brand preference is built on – and too many companies count their success/failure strictly on that.”
While McDonald’s claims it takes that ranking seriously, I ask: Why? Meeting your customers’ expectations is simply best business practices, but I can’t imagine McDonald’s ditching the Big Mac over this survey. If customer satisfaction was so important, why has McDonald’s been the market leader for those 20 years?
I bring this up because customer satisfaction, while important, is not what brand preference is built on – and too many companies count their success/failure strictly on that. But that’s inside-out thinking and relying on it too much can prevent you from stealing market share.
More to the point, we’ve worked with companies who have pointed to their high customer satisfaction ratings and said, “See? We are doing great. Look at our J.D. Powers ranking!”
However, those same companies will wonder why their market share is declining. After all, if customers are satisfied, the companies should be successful, right?
Not so fast. The definition of stealing market share is that you take customers of the competition – that is, those who do not choose you.
We worked with a bank (who eventually came around and is currently stealing market share) that thought the key was having a better website because online banking was so important. Sure, we told them. Make it better, but don’t confuse it with the reason why people would choose you. They don’t know you have a better and easier to navigate website until they have already joined you. To get them there, you have to reach them before the moment of decision.
The customer satisfaction survey is all well and good. If it is detailed, it can help with tactical elements of your business. But it is not the main avenue for stealing market share.
That’s why, after 20 years, McDonald’s probably looked at the survey, made a few notes – then threw it into the trash.
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