Several days ago, an anonymous reader posted a pretty basic, but important question on the iSixSigma forum and was seeking assistance. Basically, the reader was seeking to create an actionable survey instrument, was wondering about the utilty of an “importance-satisfaction” approach, and was looking for additional information on scaling and analyses. Several readers provided helpful advice, with one especially helpful response from George Chynoweth. That said, most of those who responded seemed to overlook 4 critical questions underlying the original question:
1. Are the metrics of customer satisfaction the right ones to be using for actionable results?
2. What are the benefits/drawbacks to the importance/performance paradigm?
3. What’s the best source of questions for a survey?
4. What types of analyses will produce the most actionable results? (relates back to issue #1)
The answers to these questions are so critical to the original question that I include my responses here.
1. The metrics of customer satisfaction have repeatedly been shown to lack a substantive connection to business results (see Reichheld. See also Reidenbach.) People make purchase decisions – whether buying pizza, cars, insurance, or tractors – based upon their perceptions of the value received. And perceived value is a function of perceived quality relative to perceived price. This interaction of quality and price (plus image) is simply not addressesed with the metrics of satisfaction. For that, you need the metrics of value.
2. There are several problems with the importance/performance paradigm. One of those was addressed in the original iSixSigm thread,, namely, the issue of respondent fatigue and attrition. Another has to do with the distinction between qualifiers and determiners. Qualifiers are “table stakes: typically very important, but typically not a source of differentiation. Airline safety would be a good example: very important, but probably not worth investing for differentiation.
3. I applaud the suggestion by QualityColorado to couple surveys with focus groups, but would differ on the timing. Focus groups (and/or customer interviews) should be the source of your survey questions. For more information on designing good questionnaires based on value, I’d recommend the ASQ publication, Strategic Six Sigma for Champions: Keys to Sustainable Competitive Advantage, especially chapters 4 – 6.
4. Finally, the anonymous questionner was correct in assuming that one of the primary analytical tools will be regression-based. But, for a market-focused definition of CTQs, you’ll need to precede your regression analyses with factor analyses. Then you’ll need to identify specific competitive value performance gaps – whether positive or negative – because these gaps will serve as the starting point in identifying and prioritizing Six Sigma projects. Chapters 1 – 3 of Strategic Six Sigma for Champions will explain just how that works
If you’d like more information regarding the issues you’ve raised, or have additional questions, you can contact me offline. Providing your organization with the type of information that can drive both competitive strategy and significant process improvements will make your services invaluable.