Customer Satisfaction Research: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Tricia Lindsey
Authored byTricia Lindsey
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Authored byPhilippe Boutros

Avoid Spooking Customers With These Scary Stories

Customer satisfaction research is an essential tool business leaders use to understand their buyers. Companies that use customer satisfaction research effectively can quickly fix sales, marketing, and product problems that are causing customer pain.

Unfortunately, too many companies wait until they get to a crisis point before considering customer satisfaction research. It may take a drop in leads or high churn rates before these companies wonder what’s scaring off their customers.

Being proactive with customer satisfaction research is a smart move. Conducting this research on a regular basis can keep your customers from entering the graveyard of dissatisfaction and missed opportunity.

What is Customer Satisfaction Research?

Customer satisfaction research allows an organization to determine how happy customers are with a company’s products, services, and capabilities.

The most common types of customer satisfaction metrics are the Customer Effort Score (CES), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Customer Effort Score (CES)

  • A Customer Effort Score quantifies how difficult it is for customers to resolve and issue or fulfill a request. For example, you might utilize a CES survey to ask, “On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult,’ how easy was it to use a company’s product?” From there, you would take the total sum of responses and divide it by the total number of survey respondents to determine your CES score. Customer effort scores point out areas of friction between a company’s product or service and its customers.

Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)

  • Generating Customer Satisfaction Scores is another commonly used approach in customer satisfaction research. A CSAT survey may ask, “How satisfied are you with the ease of doing business with our company?” on a scale from ‘very satisfied’ to ‘very dissatisfied.’

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • A company’s Net Promoter Score measures customer loyalty. This is accomplished by determining which customers would be willing to recommend you. NPS is used more frequently at companies with product-led growth (PLG) strategies where user acquisition, expansion, conversion and retention are all driven primarily by the product itself.

Customer Satisfaction Research Mistakes: 4 Scary Stories to Avoid

Some of our clients come to us after an attempt to work with a different research supplier or a DIY effort.  In the spirit of Halloween, we sat down with a few of our internal experts to uncover some of these scary stories.  Hopefully, this bit of knowledge will help you avoid the same traps in the future.

Scary Story #1 – Hearing Only From Extremists

Organizations have raving fans and they have hellacious haters. Building out a customer satisfaction research program that focuses on these two subgroups is unfortunately easy to do.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the 90-9-1 rule, which states that in any internet community 1% of the people contribute and 99% of the people lurk. Hence, a poorly thought out survey effort may only grab those who feel most passionate about your brand, either positively or negatively.

For example, your research might reveal that the customers who purchase your products tend to complain more. But in reality, it could be that the only customers who are driven to respond are the ones who have complaints. Even if this is the case, your data is going to appear as though all of your customers dislike your products.

Remember, a poorly structured sample may not represent your customers. A great customer satisfaction research effort needs to dig deeply into the 99%.

Scary Story #2 – Entering The Fight Without a Sidekick

Just because a customer says something bad doesn’t mean you have to fix it. In fact, companies regularly make decisions that generate short-term negatives but long-term benefits.

Do you remember when Adobe moved from an annual price model to a monthly subscription model for Adobe Photoshop? This announcement was met with a lot of pushback from users. Fortunately, Adobe decided to stick with the change because Adobe could foresee a future where subscriptions would be the norm.

Businesses have to make tough decisions like the one Adobe did all the time. Yet, it’s equally true that making these tough decisions without a sidekick can be incredibly difficult.

The best discussion we’ve seen of how this plays out in real life comes from the book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” written by Ben Horowitz. In the book, Horowitz describes a matrix that highlights how decisions must be made if a company is going to succeed. It includes 4 quadrants on a 2×2 grid.

You are RightYou are Wrong
You Decide Against the CrowdFew remember that you made the decision but the company succeeds.Everyone remembers the decision and you are downgraded, ostracized, or fired.
You Decide With the CrowdEveryone who advised you remembers the decision and the company succeeds.You receive the minimum blame possible for getting it wrong, but the company suffers.

Using Horowitz’s grid, it’s easy to see how important it is to have a strong set of research insights in hand when you’re about to make a decision against the crowd. Without it you’ll have to win the day on your instinct and your persuasive abilities. If those skills fail you, scary outcomes are the result.

Yet, with the right research insights in hand, it can become very clear whether that decision to ignore the crowd is the right one. Plus, you’ll have at least one sidekick at your side to share in the glory of a well made decision.

Scary Story #3 – Using Quant as a Hammer and a Screwdriver

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when conducting customer satisfaction research is to focus on quantitative approaches alone. Quantitative research helps us answer the who, when, how and where, but frequently fails to answer the why.

Consider this scenario: You’ve received a lot of negative feedback about your sales process, so you conduct a quantitative survey. Imagine a sales pipeline where a customer first fills out a contact form, then talks to a business development representative (BDR). The BDR is pleasant and doesn’t ask too many questions, so the customer then meets with an account manager for an in-depth conversation. It’s at this phase where the customer realizes your company isn’t a good fit for their business goals.  The customer then goes out to rate their experience with your sales team as a poor one, implying you wasted their time.

If you looked at this scenario only from a quantitative perspective, you might think there is an issue at the account manager stage based on the survey results. You might only be looking at the what, when and how. But, upon further examination and the use of qualitative research, it turns out the BDRs aren’t properly qualifying new leads.

Scary Story #4 – Don’t Be Overtaken by the Bots

Picture this: You find an automated service like Satismeter or Delighted to assist with gathering customer feedback. This is your dream! Now you can just sit back and read the reports.


Pop-up customer support bots can do some things well. These services are excellent for analyzing and capturing quantitative feedback. Some bots can do clustering and comparative analysis. However, while these tools can collect the data, they can’t always tell you why customers are upset. They can only tell you the what, when, and how. Therefore these tools tend to leave you with a ton of unanswered questions.

Customer Satisfaction Research: It’s Time to Be One Step Ahead

It’s a well-known fact that actors in horror movies make stupendously bad decisions. Whether it’s splitting up the group, hiding in obvious places, or simply failing to fight back these actors never avoid their doom.

As a company though, it’s easier to avoid a horrible end game. First, listen to your customers. Second, put that feedback in the right context. Third, make solid decisions on what you’ve learned.

Finally, don’t wait until your customers get spooked to consider customer satisfaction research. When it comes to knowing how your customers feel about you, you should always be one step ahead.

With more than 15 years of experience in the B2B technology sector, Cascade Insights understands how customer satisfaction research can improve the customer experience and lead to improved customer loyalty. Visit B2B Customer Satisfaction Research to learn more. For more information on all types of B2B market research, visit What is B2B Market Research

Special thanks to Scott Swigart, President and Chief Research Officer, and Philippe Boutros, Chief of Staff, for advising on this piece.

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