Research, evaluation, analysis

The Value of Dissatisfaction

As an earlier article has mentioned, the spread of quality management has increased interest in monitoring and evaluating customer and employee satisfaction. Typically this involves soliciting customers' and employees' opinions by questionnaire. Even when you find your employees or customers are generally satisfied, though, you should never ignore possible sources of dissatisfaction.

It is unlikely that your product or service is completely or nearly valueless, and if it is you won't need a survey to tell you. In the more likely event that your product or service is valuable, you still want to be able to improve it. The people who are dissatisfied with your product or service are probably going to be able to give you some idea of where it needs to be improved. Even the people who are generally satisfied with your product or service may be dissatisfied with certain aspects of it, so your satisfaction questionnaire should ask about satisfaction with as many different aspects of your product or service as possible.

Ignoring dissatisfaction also allows it to fester. For example, if you find that your employees are generally satisfied with their jobs, you may not consider it important to deal with some minor sources of dissatisfaction your survey came across. However, your employees may interpret your decision not to address these problems as a sign that you are not interested in their working lives, and dissatisfaction will grow. If you have a fire in the kitchen, you don't wait till it has spread throughout the house to call the fire department.

Organizations, like many non-profit organizations, who provide free service have a particular reason to look for dissatisfaction. People who have received free service don't want to appear ungrateful, so getting them to tell you what aspects of service they were less satisfied with may be difficult. One way of dealing with this problem is to use forced-choice items. For example, you can group different aspects of service into pairs, and ask consumers which aspect of each pair they were more satisfied with. If each aspect of service is paired with every other aspect you can get a pretty good idea of whether any part of your service could be improved.

Of course, if a few people complain about customer service, for example, you cannot leap to the conclusion that customer service is generally bad, or even to the conclusion that the complaining customers must have received bad service. However, a little investigation will quickly tell you whether the complaints have pinpointed something that could be improved.

The Value of Dissatisfaction © 2000, John FitzGerald
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