A five-point scale is totally inappropriate for customer satisfaction studies

I found an interesting post by Jeffrey Henning today. The article is touching on emotional attachment people have for different measurement  scales used in Market Research. I can see how easily it come into play as we try to find one method to fit variety of research projects. Every method or tool has it’s limitations and therefore the challenge is to find the most appropriate one for the task at hand. Jeffrey quotes Brad Borther who provides an excellent advise:

Ten-point scale: “A five-point scale is totally inappropriate for customer satisfaction studies. Why? It lacks enough granularity and robs companies of a burning desire to take corrective action. It commonly leads executives to believe that ‘80% rate us four or five; that’s great, let’s move on,’ without realizing that it simply means that 80% are at least somewhat satisfied. Further, many people will never rate anything a ‘five,’ resulting in ‘four’ including those who are really very satisfied and those who are only somewhat satisfied. To avoid this topping effect, use at least a 10-point scale and count nine and 10 ratings as fully satisfied. This will also allow easier analysis of what bottom-line effects satisfaction has, since such tools as regressions work better with a more granular score.” – Brad Bortner, principal analyst with Forrester Research, “Best Practices: Why Customer Satisfaction Studies Fail

Since our approach to measuring Product Reputation (delta between Customer Expectations and Customer Experience) is focused on competitive position of multiple products within their category, and our method does not require to ask people to measure it,  I have decided to use “0” to “2” balanced scale with 2 decimal points for more granularity. It is interesting how infrequently people want to challenge a value of our methodology or accuracy of our analysis, compared to the selection of the measuring scale. By now I gave up any attempts to change their mind. We arrive to the scores using our algorithms to analyze Customer comments and reviews, not by asking them to measure according to any scale, therefore is much easier for us to recalculate Product Reputation scores to appear in a customer “favorite” scale. The integrity of the finding is not compromised by the conversion.

I wish all religious wars could be settled that easily.

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