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What Are Customer Satisfaction Rating & Importance Scales? Challenges and Best Practices for Using Customer Satisfaction Rating & Importance Scales


The Team at CallMiner

October 24, 2017

man sitting on couch taking online survey on tablet
man sitting on couch taking online survey on tablet

A Definition of Customer Satisfaction Rating & Importance Scales

As companies strive to deliver exceptional customer experiences, they appreciate getting feedback – and its related insights – directly from the customers themselves. For call centers, customer satisfaction is key to performance and success, so having an accurate picture of satisfaction levels is critical. To get a quantitative look at customer satisfaction, call centers can use surveys that include simple questions with importance scales.

Ranking and rating scale questions on customer satisfaction surveys ask customers to rank, rate, or evaluate their satisfaction levels for products, services, or specific aspects of them. Customer satisfaction ratings often include questions with scales from Very Good to Very Poor or Highly Satisfied to Highly Dissatisfied. It is best to include an equal number of positive and negative rating points in addition to a neutral rating for each question.

Level of importance is one specific type of question to include when writing a survey to gain a customer satisfaction rating. Surveys utilizing importance scales ask questions with answers ranging from Very Important to No Importance. When wording an importance scale question, you should use standard options for customer responses such as Not at All Important, Slightly Important, Moderately Important, Very Important, and Extremely Important.

Challenges with Using Importance Scales to Determine Customer Satisfaction Rating

Any time you ask customers about their level of satisfaction in a survey, you run the risk of getting inaccurate data either because customers won’t answer truthfully or because you make mistakes in the wording and organization of the questions. As Adam Ramshaw points out, “In many situations customs either cannot or will not be honest with you. A classic example of this problem is the question ‘How important is price?’ Very few customers will answer anything but very important for this aspect of your product or service, lest you raise the price.” Ramshaw also explains that customers overwhelmingly will not answer questions in an anti-social way and often don’t know how important things are to them.

As a result, challenges with using importance scales when determining customer satisfaction rating will arise. When you ask for a rating of importance, customers often respond that everything in the survey is equally important, leaving you without any useful insights. If you opt for a ranking scale of importance, customers often think more about their responses but sometimes rush through because it takes too long to complete the ranking. The best way to avoid these two challenges with importance scales is to use a best-worst ranking with a large number of attributes and present them to customers in small groups. Customers must select the most important and least important in each list, which gives the call center accurately weighted, ranked lists of key attributes.

Importance Scales Best Practices

To avoid some of the challenges with importance scales, organizations should keep in mind that there is a distinction between ranking questions and rating questions on customer satisfaction surveys. Specifically, ranking questions ask customers to compare different items directly to one another, so customers put answers in a specific order. Rating questions, on the other hand, require customers to compare different items using a common scale, so they may respond that both the wait time and ease with which they navigated a self-service option are Very Important to them when contacting a company.

When writing your customer satisfaction survey questions, it is imperative that you consider whether the items you ask customers about are very similar to or different from one another so you can determine whether to ask ranking or rating questions. If you are going to ask customers to rate the importance of items in relation why they chose your organization over a competitor or why they purchased a product, a rating scale is the better option. Conversely, if you are asking customers to identify which contact center features you should offer in the future, you should ask ranking questions that help them build a priority list.

In general, best practices for writing customer satisfaction survey questions include

  • Setting one clear objective and asking questions relating to that objective in order to signal that you respect customers’ time
  • Keeping your survey short and asking for only one piece of information for each question; customers should be able to complete surveys in no more than five minutes
  • Avoid asking leading questions that result in unreliable answers
  • Give customers the opportunity to respond using a sliding scale such as an importance scale
  • Keep language simple and do not include jargon customers may not understand
  • Randomize multiple-choice answers so customers cannot choose the first or second option each time
  • Give customers a chance to add their explanations or other notes so they can elaborate on their responses

Customer satisfaction rating and importance scales can be informative, but they shouldn’t comprise the entirety of your customer feedback and customer satisfaction measures. Measurement and analysis tools such as voice analytics and sentiment analysis provide a better, more comprehensive view of customer satisfaction and offer actionable insights that organizations can use to impact outcomes.

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