Why is so much customer satisfaction research so unsatisfying?

When I talk to research users, one of the most common themes I hear is dissatisfaction with customer satisfaction research (and its new expansion into customer experience). Key problems appear to be: It tends to be based on people’s memory rather than their current or recent experiences, resulting in inaccurate measurements. Halo effects can swamp actual, real-time experiences and distort the recalled evaluations. For example, if somebody likes an experience they are prone to say everything was good. However, if the experience was negative they are prone to describe most of the experience as negative – this makes the findings less actionable. The research is often targeted at phenomena that are of little interest to research participants. For example, questions about how a customer is greeted at the bank or supermarket can result in blunt and hazy measurements if users do not find that aspect salient to them. A company’s area of interest is often too wide to create a meaningful research instrument. One consequence of the breadth of interest has been the creation of ever longer customer satisfaction surveys, delivering ever lower levels of satisfaction to the users of the research. Customer satisfaction and experience is a lagged measure, […]