What’s Your Survey ROI?

How Effectively Are You Leveraging Your Satisfaction Surveys?

Are you getting everything you could out of your customer and employee satisfaction surveys? How do you know?

First, are you trying to assess satisfaction or engagement?  Satisfaction, while interrelated with engagement, is associated with an experience that’s “in the moment.”  I might be satisfied with my pay or the meal that I ordered, but I don’t have any intrinsic loyalty to the organization.  If something better comes along, I’ll have no qualms about shifting to another organization for employment or another business as a customer.  On the other hand, engagement is based on a long-term relationship where customers or employees are actively advocating for you as a place to work or a place to do business with. Engagement is essential to your organization’s continued success. You need a survey instrument that allows you to assess both satisfaction and engagement.

Do you have the right survey instruments?  If you use internally generated surveys, you’re probably missing the statistical analysis of the questions with the strongest correlation to “willingness to recommend.”  These are the key drivers of customer or employee engagement. You’re missing another key component for sure – external comparisons.  Even if you have comparisons against sister organizations, that’s no way to evaluate how you compare with the best in your industry or sector.  As a former boss of mine used to say, “You could be the best pig in a bad litter!”

Your goal should be to be in the top quartile or top decile in key comparisons. But what kind of comparisons does your third-party vendor offer?  National and state averages?  The average of a peer group without any other discriminators for being in the group other than being in your industry and of a similar size?  Those provide little value unless you aspire to be just a bit above average, and we haven’t seen a vision statement reflecting that aspiration in all of our years working in and with hundreds of organizations!  The best comparisons are those that provide your percentile ranking, not just for your average scores but for your “top box” or “top two box” scores.  This shows how you are comparing against other organizations that are aspiring to excellence.

What do you do with all of the verbatim comments?  What?  You don’t get a lot of comments?  That’s a sure sign that customers have given up believing that you listen to their concerns and intend to respond to them.  It’s also a sure sign that your employees don’t trust you and believe there will be repercussions if you can ferret out the identity of those malcontents!   Okay, so you’re in better shape.  You do receive a lot of verbatim comments – both positive and negative.  Do you sort them for common themes?  Do you segment customer comments by transaction type, service or product offering, gender, age, geography, etc.?  Do you segment employee comments by gender, age, tenure with your organization, job type, department, location, shift, etc.?  By segmenting data, you can identify differences and pinpoint where to take improvement actions.

Do your managers know how to interpret and act upon their survey results?  We often find clients who are working on their lowest scoring items regardless of whether those areas impact the drivers of engagement.  Depending on your environment, you may not be able to share your survey results with your customers, but every manager can and should share the survey results with their employees.  They should probe for a deeper understanding of the issues and involve employees in developing the action plans to close gaps.  After actions are taken, managers should reinforce with employees that this was the direct result of their feedback in the survey.

We also have clients who don’t hold their managers accountable for improving performance based on survey results.  Their survey results are stagnant or declining.  Survey results shouldn’t be viewed as punitive, but they matter every bit as much as other financial and operational measures.  If your managers’ performance is evaluated against those measures, they should also be evaluated against improvement in customer and employee satisfaction and engagement results.

How are your participation rates? Have they been trending downward?  There are usually three root causes for this.  The first two indicate that you’re surveying too frequently, and the respondents are suffering from “survey fatigue;” or there isn’t enough time between surveys to analyze the results, validate the issues, and implement corrective action plans.  The third root cause is that respondents have voiced the same concerns in several previous surveys, and they see no signs of you acknowledging the issues and trying to resolve them.

When I worked in aerospace, our largest customer made a very public statement at one of our leadership forums when their Vice President stood up and told us to quit sending them surveys.  He said, “We’ve told you for the past three years that your delivery performance was unacceptable. It isn’t any better. In fact, in some of your divisions, it’s gotten worse. Clearly, your surveys are not used for improvement, and we’re not going to waste any more of our time.”

Top survey performance is like the Money Ball number for your business. Senior leaders have the responsibility for setting the direction and high-performance standards for their organization.  It is important that senior leaders assure that the organization is leveraging their survey results.  This is even more important in today’s tight labor market.  Employee surveys provide critical information in improving employee engagement.  And improved employee engagement strongly correlates with customer engagement.

Send us examples of how you have leveraged your surveys to improve your business performance.  We would like to include some of them in a future newsletter.

Surveys are expensive and time-consuming.  Why do them if you aren’t going to leverage them for improvement?

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