One of the biggest mistakes in doing customer satisfaction surveys is allowing “survivor bias”. This happens when you surveying your existing “surviving” customers – the ones that stayed with you no matter what – and ignoring the customers and business that you lost.
“Survivor bias” refers to drawing conclusions only from data that is available or convenient and thus systematically biasing your results. In technology market research, it means neglecting former customers and only drawing conclusions from existing customers – which are by definition happy customers (or at least happy enough that they have not stopped doing business with you).
If you really want to understand customer satisfaction, don’t just get feedback from the people who continue to be your customers no matter what you do to them. You need to include your former customers – those who have turned to your competitor or just plain don’t use the solution anymore.
Allowing survivor bias is a particularly heinous research mistake because it’s not hard to avoid. The data is there after all – if you have data on your customers, you have data on your former customers.
This raises one very important question – do you even know that they are “former?” The research can help you find that out, and even more importantly, find out why they are no longer customers. If there’s a problem with your solution, you need to know about it, and the sooner the better.
In this year’s annual customer satisfaction survey, make an effort to include former customers. After all, as we said here before, your goal is to get honest feedback, and when it comes to market research, negative feedback is good for you!