Satisfaction versus Importance QuestionsOne of the challenging aspects of designing a customer satisfaction survey is determining what kind of questions to ask. The usual process involves asking an overall satisfaction question, either at the beginning or the end of the survey and several questions about various aspects of the experience, drilling down to a lower level of detail, in order to better understand what has the most impact on customer satisfaction.

One of the key elements that is often overlooked in measuring customer satisfaction is how important each element of the experience is to a customer and then measuring the satisfaction of the customer with the element.

Example: A Service Call Experience.

The questions might be

1. Overall Satisfaction

2. Satisfaction with the time to reach someone knowledgeable about the customer’s problem on the phone.

3. Knowledge of the call taker

4. Courtesy of the call taker

5. Time it took to resolve the problem.

6. Satisfaction with the communication between the customer and the call taker.

7. Did the problem get fixed the first time the customer spoke to someone?

8 . Satisfaction with the resolution to the problem (ie did the problem get resolved?)

9. Provide comments about the experience.

Satisfaction versus Importance

While each of these elements would be of interest to a call center, one of the elements that is missing is importance.  How important are each of these elements to the customer?

A best practice is to ask the importance questions first, then ask the customer the same questions with a satisfaction orientation.

With answers to both the importance questions and the satisfaction question, one can determine

1. Questions of high importance and high satisfaction scores.

Action to take: Maintain current standards and procedures.

2. Questions of high importance and low satisfaction scores.

Action to take: Focus on these elements with an improvement program.

3. Questions of low importance and high satisfaction scores.

Action to take: Do these elements need to be measured in a survey if they are of low importance? Are you spending excessive resources to obtain a high score on these elements when it isn’t needed?

4. Questions of low importance and low satisfaction scores.

Action to take:. If it isn’t of much importance to a customer, then maybe these low satisfaction scores, don’t deserve much resources to fix.


Importance questions are useful when first testing a survey. You may choose to run the first version of the survey with the importance and satisfaction questions embedded in the survey. Then a few months later, you may remove the importance questions from your survey questionnaire, in order to shorten the survey.

A best practice is to restart the importance questions, at least once a year, in order to re-validate that you are working on improving those areas the customer deem most important. Look for clues on what else might be of important to customers in the comments.

Have you tried using importance questions in your customer surveys? Share your experiences below.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

2 Responses to “Customer Survey – Importance vs Satisfaction Questions”

  1. Frederick Hamnett Says:

    Strong argument.
    I think that when you deal with such survey, you obtain two levels of output:
    1. You realize your weakness
    2. You could find not satisfied customers and try to save the link
    The problem is to manage the data you obtain each time you submit your customer a survey in order to pick up valuable information by exception each time and “how” you need them.
    But you need a tool that enable you to do that.

  2. Satisfaction surveys customers will love to complete | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] drop, the customer can show ranking within likes and dislikes. This question type can be used for importance questions in addition to satisfaction […]

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