Gallup is in the news recently for issues surrounding their polling processes used during the election where they predicted a 1 point lead for Romney. Interesting my beef is not only with Gallup but any company that is involved with corporate polling to survey customer experience at retail establishments (banks, car dealers, etc).
You have all seen the signs: “Strive for Five”, “Gimme 5″, or “High 5″. I recently saw the strive for five sign at my local Kroger and reminded me of the incident above. Of course I took artistic and creative license with it but the scenario was similar. I went in for the second time for the same issue, had to wait longer than they told me to get my car and at the end the service manager practically begged me to give them fives. He claimed they never got less than a 5 rating. Thus is my problem with the way customer experience is tracked.
As someone who is familiar with statistics and employee engagement, I find it embarrassing that so many companies rely on quantitative data only. It is great that they get a five in different areas, but why? I have a friend whose company started using this as a way to track their engagement because they felt the higher the engagement with customers, the better their sales results. Which I agree with. Low performing locations saw their sales increase as their customer service scores did. Most likely, they weren’t doing what they should have been in the first place. So that is good. However, locations that were high performing could have passing or failing customer engagement scores from month to month. There was nothing being tracked to say WHY the customers rated lower.
When I asked his opinion he said it was because the rating scale was outrageous. Think about your own experiences recently at a restaurant, a store, etc. On a five point scale, what would you rate it? Normally if the service was good I would give a four. I tend to reserve fives for those that really “wow” me. However, in some industries a 4.6 score is considered a failure. REALLY? You know how you get to a 4.6. Ask ten customers to rate your company and have four of the ten give you a four rating and the rest give you a five. Or have nine customers give you a five rating and one person who either had a bad experience or a chip on their shoulder give you a one. Without additional information saying why you got the score you did, it is difficult to replicate the good behavior or check the bad.
So why is the failing grade so high? Because companies like in my example above have learned to manipulate your behavior rather than improving their customer service. Now instead of a four, I am shamed into giving them a five. When you are face to face with a person asking you to give them a five, you feel an obligation not to be the one person that kept them from getting a raise or other compensation. So you give them a five. OR, in my case when the service is less than ideal, I might do you a favor and not answer the phone when your company calls to rate your service. All that skews the data even higher.
So the top brass can brag about their high scores, but nothing really ever changes for the customer experience. There are three questions that I learned in the beginning of my career that works well in both performance reviews and customer engagement.
- What would you like X to start doing?
- What would you like X to stop doing?
- What would you like X to continue doing?
Those three questions will get you stronger information than quantitative data alone ever will.
BTW, if any company that does this feels I am wrong in my analysis, I would love to talk to you about how your methodology works differently than described.