Using Industry Norms to Interpret Satisfaction Survey Results

Posted on 06. Jun, 2010 by in Customer Research


Why is the satisfaction measurement community and our Clients always looking to benchmarks as a means of  interpreting customer feedback?  It’s so often the case that upon receiving customer satisfaction scores, a corporate executive will ask, “Well, how do these scores compare with the scores our competitors are receiving?”  This question seems to preempt a more meaningful evaluation of survey results.  It is as if the executive is seeking absolution by matching his or her (possible) mediocrity with the equally lackluster results of a competitor!


I’m always concerned that a Client’s management team will use the fact that it has surpassed an industry benchmark as indicating that it is doing a “good job”.  By way of an example, that could mean that a Client’s customers’ top-box satisfaction with their overall shopping experience of 50% (surpassing an industry baseline of 45%) could be interpreted as grounds for celebration.


Goaling for Mediocrity


But let’s understand, industry benchmarks are at best an indication of averageness.  And being “average” is a decidedly unambitious strategy.  By accepting satisfaction scores that equal or only slightly exceed industry benchmarks, a manager accedes to the fact that a significant number of his/her customers (50% in the case above) will be less than extremely satisfied!  As they are only moderately satisfied, they are likely not to be “secure customers”.  A business accepting such a modest level of enthusiasm from its customers (simply meeting an industry benchmark), would likely perform no better in the future than the average business in the category…a dangerous outcome in today’s highly competitive categories.  Long term success comes only from significantly surpassing competitors and that means exceeding industry norms.


Goaling for Attainable Superiority


In my book, Improving Your Measurement of Customer Satisfaction, I urge businesspeople to react to their customer satisfaction scores by setting their own performance goals at levels that will significantly impact their business – elevating them to “best of class” – or even “world class”.  This means looking beyond the current outcome (50% in the above example) and establishing one’s own goals.  The business in the above example might decide to goal for satisfaction scores perhaps as high as 65% (i.e. 2/3 of all customers) reporting being delighted with their shopping experience.  While such an ambitious goal may be a “reach” it can be stretched over a one- or two-year period allowing a “reasonable” time frame for it to be accomplished.


By establishing this sort of internal goal, each new period’s customer satisfaction scores can be reacted to in terms of the progress being made towards achieving the established goal.  In this perspective, comparison with external benchmarks becomes rightfully irrelevant.

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3 Responses to “Using Industry Norms to Interpret Satisfaction Survey Results”

  1. business review

    16. May, 2011

    So it is hard to imagine that the impact on newer companies and those with questionable reputations was anything but harsh. ..When the dust settles and we begin to assess the impact of this recession on remodeling firms a good analogy is likely to be that of a fire in an old-growth forest only the strongest will have survived while much of the underbrush less established firms and those with poor reputations were swept away. Now with the results of Qualified Remodeler magazines sixth annual Remodeling Customer Satisfaction Survey we are beginning to see those effects…By asking remodeling customers about their experiences post-remodel over the past six years weve been able to develop a time series of data that demonstrates three conclusions.

  2. hemp

    21. Jul, 2011

    We recently had the opportunity to report customer satisfaction scores in a unique format that assimilates the advantages of various methods and provides the manager with a clearer picture of where to take action. Further we also discuss a type of reporting that is becoming increasingly common especially in the health care arena i.e. the issue of comparing the performance of various facilities or centers that belong to a single network or organization. ….Current reporting formats ….First consider the prevailing methods for reporting attribute satisfaction scores…..Mean scores….Top two box scores….Top box scores ….Top two box and bottom two box scores…. Whether it is the top two box or top three box score that is reported is irrelevant because the principle remains the same. ….The advantage of reporting the mean is that it is a summary score that takes into account the frequency of answers for each scale point.

  3. business review

    11. Dec, 2011

    Should companies worry about verbal terrorists? Perhaps so. A recent study indicates that customer satisfaction scores could be less important to a firm

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