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Polaris Marketing Research

May 2013

Do It Yourself Webinar

DIY Webinar

One of our great Research LifeLine ™ resources is our DIY Online Research Webinar. From sampling, to question design, it's full of great information for anyone who wants to DIY marketing research!


Upcoming Events


June 10-12, 2013
Orlando, FL


2013 Insights & Strategies Conference


MRA's new 2013 Insights & Strategies Conference rethinks how the best researchers can sharpen their game and increase their personal ROI to their company and clients. At ISC you will:

  • Learn dozens of creative, new ways Fortune 1,000 companies are using research insights and strategies
  • Engage in a true knowledge-based environment where the power is yours to customize your learning experience
  • Solve research pain points through interactive, in-depth exposure to experts from more than 50 companies
  • Identify emerging best research practices from industry leaders, increasing your efficiency and effectiveness
  • Enlist trusted research partners to expand your resources and value to your internal and external clients
  • Compare performance benchmarks with research peers
  • Stay current on state-of-the-art methodologies through real world case studies
  • Join a welcoming community of your peers and build lifelong relationships




June 27-28, 2013
Chicago, IL


Health Care Marketing


Health care marketing is undergoing dramatic reinvention and change because of emerging trends, reform uncertainties, the emergence of social marketing and a renewed focus on quality, outcome and prevention.


Executives are demanding higher impact and bigger returns from marketing investments, and marketing professionals are more closely aligning their efforts with strategic objectives, customer experience and the integration of communications across multiple platforms and channels. This AMA seminar offers proven approaches to proactive health care marketing with specific action steps, strategies, techniques and tactics to move markets and increase visibility, awareness, understanding, market share and profitability.



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8 Reasons Customer Satisfaction Programs Fail

By Debra Semans, Senior Vice President, Polaris Marketing Research

There seems to be a pendulum in terms of measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty – now it’s very popular, then it wanes, then the pendulum swings back. In the recent economic downturn, many companies stopped measuring customer satisfaction, amid other cost-cutting measures. As the economy improves, will they reinstate those programs?

Experts agree that measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty is critical for business success. (Check out the Polaris website for white papers and blog posts on this topic.) So, why would there be any question about reinstating a customer satisfaction measurement program? Unfortunately many of those companies were not getting their money’s worth out of their customer satisfaction measurement investment and are questioning whether they should reinvest. Customer satisfaction measurement is often done incorrectly or just plain badly, and companies often do not know how to use the results of these programs to improve operations.

Since most customer satisfaction measurement programs are built around surveys, we will focus on that type of program. Here are the eight reasons customer satisfaction surveys fail:

1. Asking the wrong customers

The correct respondent to a customer satisfaction survey really depends on your business and who you are targeting. Are you more interested in the person who makes the decision to purchase or the person who is actually using/consuming the product or service? You may need different surveys for different purposes. But don’t ask a respondent about using your product if all they do is make the decision to purchase.

2. Asking the wrong questions

There are many, many ways to measure customer satisfaction. At the most basic level, you need to decide if you want to ask about your relationship with the customer or about a specific recent transaction or interaction that the customer had with your company. Traditionally, researchers preferred the transactional approach, as it is more reliable and actionable, but companies frequently use the relationship approach or even both. Beyond this, which of the following metrics are you most interested in?

  • Overall Satisfaction (‘traditional’)
  • Loyalty/Frequency
    • Choose again for the first time
    • Continue Purchasing
    • Purchase different products/services
    • Increase purchase size
    • Increase purchase frequency
  • Advocacy/Likelihood to Recommend
  • Comparison to Expectations
  • Comparison to Competitors’ Performance
  • Comparison to Ideal Performance
  • Emotional elements – trust, fairness/justice

Depending on your business, your customers’ purchase decision process and your strategic priorities, you might choose different measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Choosing the wrong metric can make survey results “nice to know” rather than “have to know”.

3. Making the survey too long

Customer satisfaction measurement surveys are not an opportunity to ask everything you ever wanted to know about your customers. The survey should be tightly focused on gathering actionable information about your customers’ satisfaction level. In this way, you keep respondent interest high and response burden low, resulting in more survey completes, and lower survey costs. And is there anything more ironically annoying than a customer satisfaction survey that goes on and on until the respondent is bored to tears?

4. Conducting the survey too often

Many of your customers will not mind the occasional request for them to complete a customer satisfaction survey. But it is altogether too easy to over-survey your customer base, to the point where your customers won’t participate in surveys for you at all. Be judicious about how frequently an individual can be asked to complete a survey. Once a year? Once a quarter? Err on the conservative side to avoid alienating customers. And be sure to consider all of the surveys being conducted by your company with customers, not just your survey.

5. Not maintaining respondent anonymity

If you have promised the respondent that results will be kept completely confidential and private, then so they must be. There is nothing worse than breaching your customer’s trust through an employee questioning them about their responses. This not only puts the customer on the defensive, it also guarantees that they will never answer another survey for you again!

6. Not offering an incentive

Customers do not complete surveys because they love you or because they love doing surveys. They complete surveys because they expect to get something in return. Ideally, you will solve their problem and implement business practices and operational changes that increase their satisfaction – and that would be an adequate payback for many customer respondents. However, at a minimum, you should also thank them for their time by offering a meaningful incentive.

7. Not taking action with the results

“I used to take their surveys but nothing ever changes so why should I bother?” It is the truth – if you ask people how they feel, they expect you to do something about it. You must be interested, otherwise why are you spending the money?

8. Not following up

Within the course of a survey, dissatisfied customers often self-identify and ask for a contact from the company to discuss their issues and concerns. These are invaluable opportunities to recover from customer dissatisfaction. If you do not intend to follow up with these customers, it is far better not to offer the opportunity in the first place. If a customer requests a contact, and the company does not respond, it will simply further exacerbate that customer’s dissatisfaction.

Customer satisfaction measurement can be an invaluable tool to monitor customer loyalty and vulnerability, and to identify tactics for improvement. However, it is critical that the survey be properly designed and well implemented, and that the company is serious about listening to and acting on the results.


Debra Semans is the Senior Vice President for Polaris Marketing Research, with responsibility for Account Management, Marketing and Business Development. With more than 25 years of marketing experience, Debra brings rich and varied experience to her clients.

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