I have been out of the office attending Convergence and Cloudforce and the self-assigned pile of things I want to comment on has only grown. One of the more interesting articles to come across my iPad recently was in the New York Times titled, “When Businesses Can’t Stop Asking, ‘How Am I Doing?’” It’s about the almost manic approach some businesses have to calculating customer satisfaction. It reminds me of Ed Koch, former New York City mayor who made it his tag line. Back then it was a fresh idea, but now, not so much.
As you might know, customer satisfaction was the holy grail for vendors for a long time. It was used as a barometer, though not an exact measurement, for things like the customer experience and a customer’s propensity to make a subsequent purchase. But satisfaction can be misleading a customer might have lots of reasons for not buying additional products or services beyond dissatisfaction. For instance, the customer might be tapped out or just not need another car.
But now the Times article is suggesting that customers have had enough. It’s not that we don’t want vendors to know the good, bad and in between, but we’ve been asked so often and in such great detail that we’re feeling saturated. According to the article:
“If customers balk at taking what can feel like an SAT test, the fault may lie with the surveys themselves. Many businesses, often against the advice of the experts they have hired to construct their questionnaires, cannot resist the urge to ask, ask and ask yet again. Exasperated consumers, assured that the survey will take only five minutes to complete, often bail out as they approach the 10-minute mark.
Indeed, not taking advice from experts and over sampling are having predictable results. But this also points out how important it is to find alternative methods to gather customer data and the importance of big data and analytics, for example.
Social media is still percolating through business finding new homes and admirers but already we’ve discovered how much data social tools generate. Hence we are finding that analytics need to become an integral part of what we do in the front office. But it’s the combination of social media, and all the data it generates, and analytics that will lead us to a new paradigm.
While it’s hard to get customers to respond to survey requests it is equally difficult to get people to respond when market researchers are doing the asking. In my own experience a survey is often best filled out by me in a phone conversation with a sometimes-reluctant person on the other end.
You might think that big data and sentiment analysis would solve the problem but the two forms are different. From the article there’s this:
“From social media you can gauge sentiment and to a lesser extent underlying emotional content,” said Leonard Murphy, who writes for the marketing blog GreenBook. “But you won’t be able to determine why the customer feels that way. A survey gives you the opportunity to dig deeper.”
Looks like for the near future we will still need to rely on the survey but maybe we need to develop some self-restraint. Alternatively, there’s probably a business opportunity here. We’ve already seen companies that specialize in gathering customer opinions for a fee and we might see more of this in the future. Perhaps this is telling us that some form of analytics on surrogate data and direct sampling is needed to avoid complete customer survey burnout.