Fourteen years ago, Bain & Company Partner Fred Reichheld had a suggestion: create a short consumer survey to test brand loyalty. The idea took off, so much so that Reichheld has watched it morph into a Frankenstein: the endless loop of "brief" satisfaction surveys following a dental appointment, car rental or salad at a corner restaurant. Employees increasingly pressure, even bribe, customers to offer only the highest marks, raising real questions about the results.
According to Reichheld, bloated ratings defeat the purpose. Coaching responses can drive scores up, yet higher scores indicate nothing about whether the customer will return or recommend. "The instant we have a technology to minimize surveys, I'm the first one on that bandwagon," Reichheld said.