Palle Ellemann Consulting

NEW! Satisfaction surveys should be banned
By Palle Ellemann, in Berlingske (leading Danish newspaper) on March 28, 2011.

You get what you ask for. When companies ask the employees or customers if they are satisfied, they are also telling them that the goal is to make them satisfied. Satisfaction is, though, a weak and mediocre goal that doesn’t create the employee passion and engagement necessary for creating high-performing organizations. For the customer perspective, satisfaction doesn’t create the involvement and connection to the product that is the only factor leading to some kind of customer loyalty in today’s competitive market.

The company should instead ask the employees how the organization can ensure to take advantage of the full potential of the individual employee. All employees have dreams and want to contribute to and be part of something bigger than themselves, but mediocrity, bureaucracy and poor management can kill all this passion and engagement. Studies show that 85% feel that their employer doesn’t take advantage of their full potential!

There is an enormous potential in asking and involving the employees in a more dynamic way and by focusing on performance and how to explore the full potential. If people are asked about their potential, many companies will probably also discover that a considerable part of the staff really is misplaced in the organization – the passion lies somewhere else. This is a critical issue, because it is a precondition for a high-performing organization that you have the right people onboard and they are in the right spot in the organization.

Do you ask to the future and with a focus on goals and solutions, you also invite the employee to become involved and take responsibility. By doing that you can foster a culture, where people want to be part of the solution rather than a culture, where people spend a lot of time and energy on blaming other people for problems. Satisfaction surveys are backwards looking and take away the focus on the most important issue – how can we do things better?

With regards to customers or users of a product or service, a question about satisfaction is an indication of whether or not you have delivered value for money. But you miss an opportunity to involve the customer more dynamically in a way that may have a great impact on both innovation and customer loyalty.

First of all, user driven innovation – ideas coming from users about new products or improvements of the existing products – are today an important source for product development. It is obviously an advantage that the ideas for new products are coming directly from the customers, because it indicates that there is a market for the new products. While you are starting to seek feedback and involve your customers you may as well articulate an excitement and value about the product beyond satisfaction. Instead of asking a customer, if she is satisfied with the insurance, you can ask if the insurance provide the customer with the security she is looking for and what it would take to remove all her concerns about insurances.

The communication to employees and customers has a huge impact, so forget all about satisfaction and focus instead on improvements, value and the full potential.