Customer Satisfaction in HRO – When are High Scores too High?

Congratulations to all the firms named as HRO Today’s 2010 Baker’s Dozen Multi-Process HRO providers. The rankings were driven by customer survey responses on the scale, scope, quality and satisfaction with the services provided.  The top five in the overall ranking are also the top five in customer ratings for quality of services: ADP, Ceridian, IBM, Accenture and Convergys.

I am currently wrapping up some research for one of our NelsonHall buy-side clients on the corporate relocation market. Naturally, I am asking each vendor about how they measure customer satisfaction and their current rating levels.

I came away with two thoughts.

First, all the vendors were conducting serious customer satisfaction (CSat) programs they were proud to discuss, and each program was tied to compensation and/or reward and recognition problems. The most common method used was an end-of-process survey of relocation transferees using a five point scale. Each vendor tracked both the overall average scores as well as “top box” scores. Top box ratings are important because those respondents reporting the highest levels of satisfaction are more likely to be the kind of customers that will continue to use and recommend the provider’s services to others. 

My second thought was that the reported rating scores were very high across every vendor. Having managed CSat survey programs in the past, I am a bit skeptical of unusually high scores, especially at the top box level. Of course CSat can truly be high, but it can also be a sign of a softball survey with questions carefully constructed to avoid any areas of difficulty. 

I once worked in a group with an employee survey question that was answered very negatively in each survey cycle. The management answer was not to figure out the drivers of the negative response; rather, it simply dropped the question. Ignoring a difficult issue does not make it go away,

It’s extremely important to ensure that same approach is not used in a more subtle manner in the surveys you rely upon. Look for confirmation that the CSat survey scores are matched by desirable real world actions. For example, are there correlations with sales, retention rates, referrals or complaints?

Also, be sure those who will be impacted by the survey results are not guilting customers into providing good scores. When I get my car serviced, the service people ask if I am satisfied and let me know I may get a survey, then they subtly – or not – add that their compensation and ultimately their job depends upon my satisfaction. Then I get a call from someone at the car dealership going over it all again. Gee, do I want to risk that my minor issue could cost someone his or her job? Perhaps close down a whole dealership? This approach reduces the chances of hearing easily addressable, legitimate feedback, and may even chase away customers who do not want to feel guilty over an oil change.

Finally, separate key client stakeholder satisfaction from service delivery performance measurements. Even services that are truly satisfying to the end-user may not continue to win renewal and referrals if pricing, technology capabilities, governance and other critical client relationship areas are deficient.

Truly great customer satisfactions scores are worth their weight in gold…just be sure it isn’t fools gold.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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