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Mar 10, 2013

Customer Satisfaction Survey Grading

What grades do you use in customer satisfaction surveys? How are grades influenced by the culture of the country? What to do if you perform surveys in different countries with different background?

I have been discussing customer satisfaction here a few times. Related to that, let me share a brief anecdote with you:

We implemented a new Service Desk SW on a customer's site. They are a managed services company providing support all over the world, 24x7. After the resolution of every ticket, contact person on a ticket receives a mail notification with a link to a short web-based survey.

There were just a few questions regarding speed of resolution, communication, competence of support people and overall satisfaction with the ticket resolution.

Grades were 1-5, with the above explanation that 1=poor and 5=excellent.

We received quite a bunch of survey results at the beginning, which was the intention. Here and there, a low score was received, but we were not alarmed, you can't please everyone. Service Manager was in charge to treat all grades below 3 as a customer complaint and to follow up with customers to raise their satisfaction.

Then one day we received two very bad results, averaging below 2. Both from the same market. Alert! We are doing something wrong.

So Service Manager sent apologetic mail with a inquiry what went wrong and how can we improve, blah...
The answer came quickly, from both customers, saying they are sorry, but they thought 1 is better and 5 is poor.

Was something wrong with the survey code? Customers sent us their screenshots, everything is fine, the explanation at the form header clearly stated "1=poor and 5=excellent". Both customers were from Germany. On a request to explain how they misunderstood this clear instruction, they said: "German school grading system is 1 to 5, a one being the best grade (Sehr gut), and five the worst - insufficient (Nicht genĂ¼gend)". So they didn't bother looking at explanations, they automatically presumed that this survey from another country complies to their long-term grading experience in German scholar system. Can't blame them.

Therefore we looked arround, what are grading standards in school systems around the world?

USA and influenced states use ABCDEF grades. Europe differs very much depending on history, somewhere 1 is bad, under the German skirt it is excellent (Chezh republic and Slovakia also).
Eastern European countries, Asia and Oceania use either Russian 1-5 system or percentage system 0-100%.

Customer Survey Grades

Interesting details:
  • Venezuela uses rather exotic 0-20 grading system
  • Ecuador and Serbia (opposite hemispheres) use similar 5-10 grading systems where 5=fail and 10=excellent.
  • A lot of countries use different grading systems for primary, high school and university grades.
So what approach to take in grading customer satisfaction in order to make it intuitive regardless of their local education background?
We had only two solutions:
  • Go to using 1, 2, 3, 4 grades, where customers won't be able to relate to their finer graded school system. 1-4 is also good because it eliminates the indifferent middle grade, and it forces a customer to decide for better or worse 2 or 3.
  • Take the -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 grading approach. Good: it is self-explanatory, negative numbers can't be good. Bad: it leads the customer to a mediocre "0" grade, suggesting that it is OK.
For now, we are using the second proposed grading system, accepting the downside that some customers see nothing bad in selecting a "0", which is a neutral grade.

An additional tweak would be to change grades to -1, 0, 1, 2, which would "push" a customer towards positive grades some more.

What metod do you think is most apropriate for you?

Related articles:

Customer Satisfaction 
How bad do we need it in IT Service Management? Where is it mentioned and where is it dealt with in ITIL V3? How do we manage it in real life?

Customer Satisfaction Survey: What Methods To Use?
How to gather customer satisfaction data? What methods are there? What ITIL says? What methods will work for you?