• October 1, 2014
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Are You Correctly Measuring Customer Satisfaction?

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Every once in a while, a bad customer service story goes viral, forcing CRM professionals to take a closer look at how they support customers. The Comcast example that News Editor Leonard Klie mentions in his cover story, "Should CSRs Be Paid for Performance?" is one of those cringe-worthy examples. Unfortunately, they're more common than we'd like to think. Actually, it reminds me of a bad customer experience I had with AAA.

On a winter evening after a long day at work a couple of years ago, my car wouldn't start. The battery had died. So I called AAA to request a tow-truck driver. After stating all the necessary details, the agent informed me that a driver should arrive within 30 minutes. No big deal. I then called my wife to tell her what happened and that I'd be a little late for dinner.

Well, things didn't exactly go as planned. After an hour and 20 minutes, the tow-truck driver finally arrived.

Aside from his lateness (which he apologized for), I was pleased with his service. He was friendly, courteous, professional, and helpful. And, before long, he had my car humming. That's when things took a turn for the worse.

Before I could drive off, the same AAA agent who had been handling my case called me back and asked if I was "totally satisfied" with AAA's service. I said, "I'm satisfied, but not totally satisfied," because the driver showed up so late. The agent argued that it's acceptable/common for a tow-truck driver to arrive an hour after the initial call.

Why wasn't this explained to me on the first call? Had I known this, I might have made other arrangements to get home, I thought. Instead of vocalizing this, I simply repeated my point that I was satisfied, but not "totally satisfied," which seems fair, considering the driver was so late.

This wasn't good enough for the operator. He seemed frustrated with my response and argued the same exact point. Then, again, he asked if I was "totally satisfied" with the service.

If I didn't agree with you the first time, what makes you think repeating yourself will change my mind? But I didn't want to argue with him. I was tired, cold, and hungry, and I wanted to go home. Because of this—and because I realized he would detain me until I told him what he wanted to hear—I capitulated to get him off my back.

Clearly, there were several problems with this exchange. First, it seems silly that there aren't separate satisfaction questions—one for the driver and one for the operator. Instead, AAA had one customer satisfaction question about the entire experience. One satisfaction score for the entire experience doesn't take into account all the different people, processes, and tools that go into creating a good customer experience.

Second, the customer service rep (CSR) who handled this case should not have collected my customer feedback. For customers to give their honest opinions, they must feel a sense of anonymity, which is removed when the CSR assigned to their case also asks for feedback.

The third issue is that this CSR knows the customer satisfaction score is a reflection of his work, so he might be inclined to pressure customers into giving a higher score. In my case, it seemed the CSR was more interested in recording a high satisfaction score than in documenting how I actually felt. And instead of accepting the "satisfied" score, he badgered me into giving him a "totally satisfied" score.

So congratulations, AAA, you got what you wanted—a "totally satisfied" score from me. However, you now have an inaccurate view of my satisfaction level and made my overall customer experience worse.

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