Friday, December 26, 2008

Measuring Satisfaction

This has been an annoying issue for me for a long time. Sort of like a piece of food caught between your teeth and no matter how hard you try, you can't pry the little bugger out.

What is exactly does it mean to be 'satisfied' and how do you know?

That's a rhetorical question - in as far as I can pose it, but I don't expect an answer. It's like asking how long is a piece of string to five people holding different strings. If they all got together they might come to a consensus on what long and short was, but individually, they have no idea.

I can see they survey question now.. "Thinking about what you know about string, on a five point scale where 5 is Very Long and 1 is Very Short, how would you rate the string you are holding?". You would get a bunch meaningless data.

Yet, this is the way many businesses measure satisfaction.

Or, you could ask The Ultimate Question - "Would you recommend this string to a friend?". Perfect solution if only everyone's definition of 'friend' and 'recommendation' were the same. In the digital age, someone with 400 FaceBook friends and 2,000 Twitter followers who throws links around like candy is doing something radically different to two neighbors chatting over a fence or two colleagues having a yarn at the water cooler.

What about "Does this string exceed your expectations?". Same problem. It all depends on where your expectations were to start with. I had a heated debate with a Phd about this a while back. He was vigorously arguing the 'expectations' PoV. I was trying to point out the data we were getting was not that useful. He convinced me we weren't using it properly. So we started using it properly. It was still useless (this taught me that you should never bother arguing against something someone has built a successful business selling - you can either believe it or not, just don't try to argue with them, you will lose).

You can go down the list of ways to measure satisfaction - satisfied or not; recommendations; exceeding expectations; likability; happiness; contentment - they all fall on the sword of context. People interpret them in different ways. And in aggregate, they don't mean much.

So we come back to square one. What does it mean to be 'satisfied' and how do you know?

I am going to try and craft an answer to this over the next few blog posts - of course, my answer might be as equally flawed, but I really feel the need to try and get this out of my teeth.

Remember, I have moved sites, is my new home!

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