The Dark Side of Customer Satisfaction

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Customer satisfaction surveys are very popular in most businesses. The common wisdom is that these surveys help in improving customer service and thereby increase customer loyalty.

Customer satisfaction surveys are not a new phenomenon. In fact, they have been around for decades and the use of such surveys to assess customer satisfaction is a well-established practice.

But as a recent blog points out, there may be more to this practice than meets the eye.

The blog titled “The Dark Side of Customer Satisfaction” (written by an anonymous person) was published recently on the internet and has attracted a lot of attention from the world over. The author has done an exhaustive analysis of what he calls “a survey scam”.

The author starts with pointing out that any business that collects customer data for the purpose of increasing their profits is essentially practicing what is known as market research or marketing research. He then goes on to explain how companies gather information about customers: either through focus groups or through surveys that are usually administered by an outsourced third party service provider.

The author’s primary criticism is directed towards questions asked in such surveys, which seek answers pertaining to the customers’ attitudes towards specific aspects of the business or even individual employees, along with questions seeking opinions about proposed changes in employee compensation, policies and practices

I am writing this article to share my experience with a company that I recently purchased a bottle opener from. The product was of high quality but not the best quality. However, the product is clearly overpriced for the actual value.

By looking at the website,, it is clear that they take satisfaction in pleasing their customers rather than making a profit. They even have a customer satisfaction survey on their website and on all product packaging. After receiving the product I discovered that there must be a dark side to customer satisfaction surveys because it seems like this company has taken customer satisfaction surveys to such an extreme that they have forgotten about the most important thing to any business: PROFIT!

The products are priced extremely high for what you get and I believe that if they were to take a look at some of their competitors (such as they would see the error of their ways. After purchasing this bottle opener, I did fill out and send back the customer satisfaction survey mentioned above but did not receive any response at all, even though they claimed to respond within 3 weeks.

To start the story let’s take a few steps back in time. I was working at an outsourcing company, developing applications for a large American company based in Massachusetts. The company had just gone through a spin-off and was now running as a separate business unit and wanted to establish some way to measure their own performance and track it over time.

What is customer satisfaction? And how can we measure it?

What is customer satisfaction?

Well, this is not an easy question to answer. There are many different definitions of customer satisfaction from various authors and consultants. But there is one definition that I think is very true – that “satisfaction” does not exist in isolation, rather the opposite, it depends on the state of the organization or person who measures “satisfaction”.

I think that this statement largely explains why there are so many conflicting definitions for what customer satisfaction means, because ultimately what matters is how you want to use your measurement of “satisfaction”, if you want to use it as a trigger for action, then you will be measuring more than just “satisfaction” by itself. If you consider this issue, then you will understand why there are so many conflicting definitions and even contradictory advice given by experts in the field of measuring customer

The customer satisfaction survey is a powerful tool because it’s the only feedback mechanism that most companies can use to decide whether their customers are happy. It’s in your interest to fill it out truthfully and completely, or you may be missing out on free stuff. But as I found out, there’s some fine print that you should be aware of.

Treat the receipt like a contract. When you get one of those tiny receipts at a restaurant, do you look at it closely? That piece of paper is legally binding—if you lose it, they are not obligated to give you anything. So keep the receipt and treat it like a contract with strict conditions.

The language on some of these receipts is so broad that they could be used to give out free stuff at any time in exchange for just about any opinion. The most explicit language I’ve seen was at a restaurant in Hawaii: “We appreciate your patronage! As a valued customer we would like to thank you with this token of our appreciation.” That’s pretty clear—if you want a freebie, give them an opinion. At another place I visited in New York City, the language was more implict: “Your responses will help us improve our service.” Implicit is better for them; it allows

Customers who say they want to be treated as individuals are often lying. They don’t really want to stand out from the crowd. They just want to be coddled and pampered like everyone else.

Some companies, hearing this, conclude that they should stop trying to figure out what their customers really want. Instead, they should just try to make every customer feel special. This is a mistake. It is impossible to satisfy an infinite number of individual tastes – even if you only have an infinite number of customers.

And the truth is, most people don’t really want to feel special anyway. If you give them something unusual or unique, they will be upset that it isn’t like everyone else’s thing.

It is best for everyone when companies decide what it is they are trying to do and then do it as well as possible.

The article explains how they do it and gives some examples.

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