From time to time we meet companies that are eager to conduct customer surveys asking us if and how they can use this to benchmark themselves against competitors. We always respond that we think benchmarking against competitors is the wrong way to look at customer surveys. Instead, we recommend that companies use customer surveys to focus on internal improvement. Here’s why we don’t think that companies should benchmark against others.
Your competitors don’t matter (that much)
Your competitors are all running their businesses within the same market segment as you and with the same goal; to attract most customers. Some would argue that benchmarking your business against others could reveal best practices for you to adopt. However, although your competitors work in the same market you aren’t exact reflections of one another. There are always things in your individual companies that will be different, otherwise you wouldn’t have anything to compete with. Thus, if you through benchmarking would be able to say “We have 20% more satisfied customers than our competitors” this still doesn’t say anything about your particular business. And especially not how satisfied your customers are with you. Because of these differences, comparing yourself with your competitors can almost be seen as comparing apples with pears.
Benchmarking against competitors is a waste of time
Your customers really don’t care how well you do against your competitors. Instead, they care how well you do for them. Sure, they might choose a competitor over you, but this is probably because what you offer isn’t good enough. Focus your time on finding out from your customers what you can do to become better, instead of taking the time to compare yourself with your competitors. This way you’ll know what to do to make your customers happier and also come back to you. Perhaps they’ll even spread the word about you.
If you want to benchmark, then benchmark the right things
We don’t want to confuse you that we think that benchmarking itself is something negative. We do think that it is really valuable if it is used the right way. There are two types of benchmarking that we recommend, and that is benchmarking against your customers expectations and benchmarking internally.
If you’re able to ask your customers what they initially expected from you, then you have something to compare with after they have made business with you. Measuring customer satisfaction based on initial expectations is a really powerful tool since you’ll have the possibility to immediately identify areas where you can improve.
The other type of benchmarking that we suggest to our customers is to benchmark internally. First of all you could decide to continuously measure customer satisfaction with the goal of increasing the level of satisfaction over time. Or if you’re a larger organization with plenty of stores or divisions you can compare them with each other. This could help you find the best practice for your business based on what part of the organization that performs best. Combining separate levels of customer satisfaction, as well as the overall level of customer satisfaction for your business, are great ways of benchmarking against yourself.
In case you’re wondering how to use customer satisfaction as a benchmarking value, you can read our post on satisfaction average here. This post explains how you easily can start measuring an actionable value for your customers’ overall satisfaction.
It’s all about you, really
As you might understand, our view is more towards your own survey goals rather than comparing yourself to others. Your competitors will always be different to you in some way. This means that even if you are “as good as the others”, your customers still might think that you can become even better than you are today. And that is what we think you should strive for.
If you want to learn more about how we think you should approach customer surveys, read our post on having the right survey mindset here.