Deciding which scale to use
Using rating scales in customer satisfaction research presents the questionnaire writer with a number of choices for the most appropriate scale. Rating scales are commonly used in customer satisfaction research interviews for very good reasons. They provide a relatively easy way in which a customer can assess the service on a number of different items in a way that allows comparisons to be made between the items. The interval nature of the data makes it appropriate for the production of mean scores, and for carrying out correlation or regression analyses using other data such as overall satisfaction or behavioural data.
Scales such as these are commonly found on questionnaires left in hotel rooms, and Figure 6.1 shows the first part of one of these. The questionnaire continued with 53 attributes in total to be rated on this scale and 12 other questions. It contained no instructions other than to define the points of the scale, thus assuming that its clients have a reasonable level of familiarity with questionnaire completion.
In today’s climate of customer service, you may be asked to complete a customer satisfaction survey in a hotel or any number of other places, as well as if you:
- use a bank;
- subscribe to a telephone company;
- take out an insurance policy;
- book a holiday;
- travel by train or air;
- buy computer software;
- buy a car;
- have a car serviced.
It is therefore probably not unreasonable to assume that people are familiar with these formats. Customer satisfaction questionnaires abound, from short one-sided cards left for the client to complete, to many-paged very detailed studies conducted by telephone. And most of them use rating scales.
There are a number of different ways in which customer satisfaction research can be approached. As well as deciding whether the importance of the attributes to the customer needs to be measured, the researcher needs to decide the appropriate scale from:
Should it be a rating of absolute performance, as in Figure 6.1? This is sufficient to allow us to track any changes over time, but how does the reported performance relate to expectations? A rating of ‘very good’ may be wonderful news for a two-star hotel but a poor score for a five star hotel where everything is expected to be ‘excellent’. Do customers bear that in mind when completing customer satisfaction questionnaires? Would the same level of service be rated as ‘excellent’ in the two-star hotel but ‘poor’ in the five-star hotel because expectations are different? Nor can it be assumed that these factors will remain constant over time. The ratings may start to decline despite the level of service remaining constant because a new competitor has entered the market with an improved service that has changed customers’ expectations.
The questionnaire writer therefore needs to consider other scales as well. A scale may be devised to monitor performance relative to expectations. One such scale might be:
- much better than I expected;
- better than expected;
- as expected;
- worse than expected;
- much worse than expected.
Achieving a high score on this scale would demonstrate both that customers are delighted with the level of service, which they did not expect, and that there is possible over-delivery that could be cut back.
In some circumstances meeting customers’ needs rather than their expectations may be more appropriate.
The level of service was:
- a lot more than I needed;
- a little more than I needed;
- exactly what was needed;
- a little less than I needed;
- a lot less than I needed.
The provision of hotel services – the swimming pool, the trouser press, the range of restaurants, for example – may have been excellent, and may have been what was expected from a five-star hotel, but more than was needed by the client, who will go elsewhere next time where he can get what he needs for a lower price.
Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.