The Problem With Customer Satisfaction

If you’re a trainer or training professional, you probably use customer satisfaction score to measure how happy students are with the courses you offer. Chances are that once a student has completed a course you ask them this question: “How satisfied were you with the course/instructor?” If your satisfaction scores are high, you send a message out to the organization to highlight what a great job you’re doing. The problem with asking the “satisfaction” question is that the answer doesn’t tell you how engaged or loyal your students are.

Why Measure Customer Loyalty

Customer engagement or loyalty is a much better indicator of whether those students will take any more of your classes. In fact, high satisfaction scores might well be hiding that many of your training customers are ready to jump ship and find another provider. Here a real life non-training example:

I hired a vendor to work on my house. The project took longer than I expected and the contractor really didn’t do a good job of communicating schedule changes, delays, etc. The final product was pristine. And, I was satisfied with the results. If the vendor gave me a survey to rate just that aspect of the effort, I would have given him a nine out of 10. Unfortunately, because of the elongated timeline and poor communication there was no way I would use this vendor again or refer his services to one of my friends. The impact to the vendor was unrealized revenue opportunities.

Is it possible that your training organization is like the vendor that worked on my house? You’re getting a lot of good scores on your satisfaction surveys, but your students or customer base is not loyal. They are unwilling to recommend your classes to their colleagues and they would prefer to take classes from someone else.

What the Research Says

My personal experience, it seems, was not a coincidence. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between corporate revenue and the willingness of existing customers to refer that company’s services. Forbes magazine, for example, suggests one reason Apple Inc.’s retail stores enjoy the highest productivity in retailing of any kind, is because they focus on customer loyalty, not customer satisfaction. Apple uses an approach called Net Promoter Score (NPS). Here’s how it might in a training environment.

Abandon your current questionnaire and create a one question survey. Rather than asking students who have completed courses: “How satisfied were you with this course?” Ask them: “On a scale of ‘0 – 10’ with ‘0’ meaning not at all and ’10’ being extremely likely, how likely are you to refer this course/instructor to a colleague?” Provide students with an area to submit comments if they wish.

How To Measure Customer Loyalty

With NPS anyone who gives you a score of 9 or 10 is a promoter. It considers students who give you a score of 7 or 8 passives. And, it considers students who give you a score between 0 and 6 detractors. To get your NPS you would subtract all the scores of “0-6” from the scores that rate you between 9 and 10. If for example, you received one hundred surveys from a course and twenty of those surveys rated your course between 0 and 6. Ten rated you between 9 and 10, and seventy rated you between a 7 and an 8. You would subtract the detractors (20) from the promoters (10) giving you a NPS of (-10), the translation, you have a lot of work to do.

What Customer Satisfaction Hides

Using a traditional approach to viewing these numbers gives you a different view. We would probably consider anyone who rated us above a “5” as satisfied. Thus the satisfaction score would have been 80% (the seventy that rated you between 7 and 8 plus the 10 that rated you between 9 and 10). The score of 80% would have hidden that more of your students are detractors than are promoters, and only 10 out of 100 would refer your services to a colleague.

So, if you really want to know how good a job you’re training team is doing. Consider NPS.

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