Is Customer Satisfaction Really Measurable?

John Krautzel
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Customer satisfaction scores are an often-used key performance indicator for many retailers and brands to gauge how customers view products and enjoy the overall transaction. The logic behind this is that a satisfied customers are likely to advocate for the company, recommending it to friends, family members and co-workers. This is essentially free advertising. However, is customer satisfaction actually measurable, and is it worth measuring?

The key problem with customer satisfaction scores is that they don't really mean very much. Customers decide not to patronize businesses for a variety of reasons, including impracticality, cost and a wide variety of nebulous reasons unrelated to the satisfaction of the customer. While mystery shopper reports can provide an objective measure of the service being received, they still fail to take into account the needs and wants of the vast majority of the business' customers.

More importantly, what people say and what people do are often two very different things. Satisfaction, at its heart, is typically an emotive response rather than a rational response, so a large number of factors can affect it. For example, the smell of a place might be pleasant to some but offensive to others. Patrons might like the store and products but dislike the store's location. Depending on the customer, lighting might be too bright or not bright enough. Even the products you sell do not appeal to everyone, as some customers might want certain packaging, a specific quantity or a lower price.

Ultimately, customer satisfaction is best measured by many companies by the number of repeat customers coming through the doors. Compare it to the footfall of similarly sized local businesses, where possible, to get an idea of your competition. Increasing sales on the same or similar products year after year generally indicates increased customer satisfaction, when taking into account inflation. Decreasing sales typically indicates decreasing customer satisfaction.

In some cases, sales may be affected by external factors that you are unable to control. A similar business opening nearby may dramatically decrease sales, which is why your efforts to encourage customer loyalty are vital. In cases like this, the business' ability to bond with the customer is not measurable, as each customer requires a slightly different approach. A small coffee shop, for example, might be renowned for its friendly staff and excellent coffee, while a supermarket might need low prices and regular availability to retain customers. For small or medium-sized businesses, finding employees who have similar values might be the key to satisfying customers.

Customer satisfaction is such a vague phrase that it's not worth measuring. Instead, focus on providing good customer service and good products at reasonable prices to draw in repeat customers and encourage customer loyalty.

Photo courtesy of nenetus at


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