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Belfius : 95% of satisfied customers. A customer satisfaction survey that failed?

Belfius prides of targeting 95% of satisfied customers. This score is actually so high that it becomes suspicious. In today’s article we’ll investigate the three mistakes Belfius may make that would lead to misinterpreting the results.

How did you define customer satisfaction ?

The first question that arises immediately is whether or not the questions that were asked in the customer satisfaction survey were really relevant.

Let’s have a look at the following example : imagine a bank asking its customers the following questions :

  1. Do you like the colors of our branches ?
  2. Last time you called the bank, did you wait less than 10 minutes ?
  3. Do you like the voice of our employees ?

and concludes that 95% of customers are satisfied.

You understand immediately that the very questions asked will not allow to draw conclusions about the overall level of customer satisfaction. There may indeed be more important aspects than colors and voice to shape satisfaction. Similarly 99,99% of customers will probably have waited less than 10 minutes. Yet it doesn’t mean they were satisfied.

From the example above you understand that it’s crucial to first define HOW a customer form a judgment on satisfaction. When this is understood one can then define the questions required to measure the overall customer satisfaction. The error that most people do is to invent questions that they think will be good indicators of customer satisfaction. This “gut feeling” is actually a very bad companion for marketers when it comes to understanding what is important for the satisfaction of your clientele.

Which scale did you use ?

Also of importance is the scale you are using. Most companies do not pay sufficient attention to scales when designing their survey and mix different scales. For example the answer to one question may be measured on a 4-point scale (I very much agree – I agree – I don’t agree – I don’t agree at all) and another answer may be Yes / No.

Although certain questions may indeed require a Yes/No answer, we recommend to use that kind of questions to capture information on the respondent, not to measure his/her satisfaction.

In fact we recommend to use uneven scales in order to measure satisfaction: either 5-point or 7-point scales (those are called “Likert” scales). Don’t mix different scales because you’ll come into troubles when analyzing the results (see below).

How did you analyze the results ?

One typical error that is made is also to attach a definition of “satisfaction” that is actually far away from what customers actually think.

Imagine you use a 7-point scale to ask your questions. You decide that all answers ranking 4 or above will be counted as contributing to overall satisfaction. You understand pretty quickly that the “satisfaction score” will be much higher than with counting only 6 and 7 answers.

Advices for your customer satisfaction surveys

The first advice that we’d like to give you is to investigate first what leads to customer satisfaction. Always assume that the components of customer satisfaction are not known by you. They are to be found in the head of your customers. Don’t write any satisfaction survey before being sure of what your customers think.

The second advice is to define very well how you will compute the overall score of customer satisfaction. What we would recommend is to add only the scores of those customers who were very satisfied or extremely satisfied (typically the 6 and 7 on a 7-point scale). The 5’s will only be marginally satisfied and will not propagate positive word-of-mouth whereas the 4’s and more likely to be detractors. If you want to know more read about the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

We hope this article was useful to you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with you if you need help in designing your customer satisfaction survey.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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