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Scale-related Pet-Peeves

Blog #31


Bogus Measurement of Satisfaction

Have you ever been presented with a satisfaction questionnaire and then been instructed, probably by the person for whom the survey is at least partially about, that it is VERY IMPORTANT to give the highest possible score?  This has happened to me several times over the years.  Let me give an account of what happened to me a few months ago.  Maybe it will jog your memory of something similar that has happened to you.

A service tech came to my house to work on the satellite system.  He provided service for a large, well-known company that was purchased a few years ago by an even larger telecommunications giant.  (The logo of the giant is on the rating form I was given.) When the tech was finished with the work, he asked me to fill out two rating forms, one before he left and one that would come later in a call from the telecom.  For the first one, he stood right next to me and watched closely as I filled out several questions about his service.  He made it clear that I should give him the highest score because any other number implied failure.  At the end of the form was a space where I was to sign my name.  The second form, which I still have, just had one overall satisfaction question and urged me to give a 10, stating that anything other than 10, such as a 9, implied failure.  (By the way, I recently learned of a chain of luxury resorts that routinely uses a similar process.)

What’s wrong with this?

WHO is authorizing these processes? Is it just a lowly staff member here and there who does not understand measurement, statistics, and the ethical implications of what he/she is doing? Alternatively, are there people in research or customer service who believe this is an appropriate way to measure satisfaction? Another possibility is that there are managers who are pressuring well-trained researchers to do something that is inappropriate. Whoever you are, I AM CALLING YOU OUT!!! If there is anyone out there who can justify this practice, please try do so. Until you do that, my position is that when a company uses such a rating system it gives management a very distorted view of the business. Further, if you use such methods, not only does it irritate customers, but it leads to bad word-of-mouth and its subsequent negative impact on future business. Finally, if a company knowingly uses distorted satisfaction ratings in its promotion then the fraudulent practice could have legal ramifications.