Learning from Customer Satisfaction Surveys

“Customers are no longer buying products and services – they are buying experiences delivered via the products and services.” – Gregory Yankelovich

We know that learning and receiving feedback from customers is important. The most effective and common form of doing so is through customer satisfaction surveys. Even though there is some truth in the biases that exist (that the answers to these surveys are perceptions rather than being based around actual performance of the company) around customer satisfaction surveys, the fact is that they are a vital link between customers and companies and provide information to companies regarding customer behaviour and mind-set. Customer satisfaction surveys are able to answer the question on company performance to a large extent. The scores on these surveys let companies know on which parameters they are meeting customer expectations and where they need to work harder. Even though the responses to the survey questions would have answers that depend on the customer’s mindframe at the time of taking the survey, customer satisfaction surveys still provide some answers to companies.

There are some basic drawbacks of customer satisfaction surveys – for example not all customers would complete the survey, some may respond depending on how they feel about the company at the time and yet others could be highly dissatisfied customers. The responses on such customer satisfaction surveys would be highly skewed since they would stem from some bias or another. This could lead companies to believe information about themselves that may not be completely true. Before sending out customer satisfaction surveys, companies must evaluate whether the responses would accurately reflect their actual performance and whether by implementing the suggestions provided they would be able to garner more business and sales. The framing, distribution and collation of customer satisfaction surveys are time and resource consuming activities and hence must be meticulously planned before implementing them.

The other main factor to consider about customer satisfaction surveys is the frequency. Customers are busy and they are unlikely to complete another survey if they believe that the previous one ‘had just been done.’ In addition, companies must refrain from sending out surveys when the market feel of their company is extreme – either positive or negative. The results of the survey would most definitely be biased in either direction, thereby defeating the purpose of the exercise. In order to effectively learn and gain from customer satisfaction surveys, the time during which they are sent out must also be taken into consideration.

Despite the objectivity and a certain amount of bias, the fact is that customer satisfaction surveys do play a crucial role in providing valuable information to companies about their performance with respect to customer satisfaction. A company not only finds out where they are lacking but also what their customers expect and see a clear connection between the company’s performance and customer behaviour (as in buying patterns, time lapse from one purchase to another and other such aspects). For companies to learn from customer satisfaction surveys, they must evaluate the responses against other data available to determine how much of the score is objective and which portion is subjective. We know that customer perception is a reality for them – hence their scores against each parameter would reflect their actual beliefs of the company’s performance vis-à-vis their expectations. Companies must use the responses to bridge this gap and enhance their service and product quality or any other aspect that customers believe lacks excellence.

The other learning from customer satisfaction surveys is that customers feel valued and important when asked for their opinion and suggestions. This increases their trust in the company which in turn gives rise to customers remaining with the company. When companies receive high scores on the customer satisfaction parameters, they can publish this data on their website, social media sites and other forms of communication in order to attract prospective ones. However, companies that refuse to learn from scores and feedback received via the customer satisfaction surveys, will be unable to make improvements in their customer service and product quality. In addition, they would be unable to anticipate customer behaviour or fully understand the needs, perceptions and expectations of their existing and prospective customers. The customer satisfaction surveys in such cases would be a complete waste of time and other resources.
A meticulously designed survey would be aligned to the current trends, customer behaviour and expectations. The questions in the survey would be able to elicit the most appropriate responses from the customers, whether with regard to being completely satisfied with the company and its offerings or whether they believe improvements are required or even a mix of both of these views.  There would be no point sending out customer satisfaction surveys simply because everyone else is doing it or because it is an exercise that ‘has been traditionally done’.


Customer satisfaction surveys may not always provide the most accurate data, but they are an invaluable form of receiving feedback and opinions from customers regarding a company’s performance. They measure customer satisfaction and help companies determine which customer would prove loyal and who would be easily swayed and likely to switch. It is imperative however, that customer satisfaction surveys let customers know that the company is interested in and committed to continually bettering its products, services and customer service and would be willing to go the extra mile in order to achieve customer delight. With such a competitive marketplace, companies do not have any other way to survive and inch closer to success.

The customer satisfaction surveys must also reflect that the company has used past data and survey results. By doing so customers would be able to provide more accurate feedback on whether the company’s performance has bettered or worsened since the last survey. The premise of putting together such surveys is to understand what customers need and expect and so it would not make sense to ignore the indications customers provide through their responses. It is critical for companies to learn and re-learn through customer satisfaction surveys.

The customer satisfaction surveys must be able to elicit concrete and realistic responses in order to satisfy the objectives of the company sending out the survey. In the highly competitive and cut-throat business scenario, customer satisfaction surveys prove to be a vital vehicle of carrying information. Companies tell customers that they are willing to listen and do whatever possible to reach their expectations and also to develop new strategies to improve. Customers now ‘call the shots’ and hence knowing what they think and believe about a company will decide the fate of the company. Without customer satisfaction there would be no buying and without sales a company might as well round up their operations. Even if customers do not buy regularly, as long as they remain pleased with the company, they would endorse the offerings, attract other customers and provide great testimonials for the company – which in the competitive environment, prove indispensable to success.

Companies must constantly aim at customer retention (it is more expensive to attract customers than retain them) and being able to assess customer mind-set toward their company would enable them to build rapport and relationships with the customers and in turn gain their loyalty. Customer satisfaction surveys may be cumbersome and even expensive for a company but they are worth every resource that a company may put into it. These surveys do provide valuable information to a company that is over and above other forms of data collection.

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