As much as you might think it is, satisfaction is not binary.
Customers don’t naturally fall into one of two slots: dissatisfied or satisfied. It would be a lot easier if they did, but they don’t. And we can’t (and shouldn’t) try to wedge them into a hole they don’t fit. Not if we want to gain truly meaningful and actionable insights.
The truth is, most customers fall somewhere on a spectrum ranging anywhere from very dissatisfied to very satisfied. And companies who say 85% of their customers are satisfied are really missing the point.
Think about an experience, any experience, you had recently. Whether it was the restaurant you dined at, or an in-store shopping experience, watching the news on TV, or just about any other experience, you likely were somewhere between very dissatisfied and very satisfied.
If a company says that 85% of their customers are satisfied, what are they really saying?
In most cases, a scale of some sort was used to gather the date, such as 1=very dissatisfied and 10=very satisfied. Often a top box- or top two box- approach is used. The percent of respondents that answered one of the top two choices, for example 9 and 10, will be considered satisfied. So, the statement: 85% of customers are satisfied usually will mean that 85% of customers are in a top two box of satisfaction.
Granted, it’s sometimes easier to describe satisfaction in percent instead of a mean score, but that view of the data is less precise, less useful, and less actionable. So we may use a top box or top two box to describe satisfaction to the masses, but we should not ignore the importance of understanding the mean score as well.
If you can raise the mean score from a 74 to a 78 that is good for your business even if you don’t improve the percentage of respondents that are in a top two box calculation. Satisfaction is not binary, and using the mean score will give us better insight.
And better insight equals better intelligence. Better intelligence equals better decisions. And better decisions can lead to bigger and better profits for your business.