Back to the main blog page


Dissatisfaction as a Key Metric

by Paul Mitchell, Client Service Director at GAPbuster Worldwide

May 2013

Companies have long used Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) as a means to evaluate sentiment within their customer base. There are multiple ways and means to capture, report, analyse and action this information, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Specific research methodologies are often combined in an attempt to deliver as rounded a view as possible and this field of research continues to evolve. Perhaps the most significant development in the last decade was the introduction of the Net Promoter Score, but there are other ways of looking at customer sentiment beyond CSAT, including Customer Effort and Dissatisfaction.
While not new in itself, Customer Dissatisfaction can shed new light on an old subject. Consider for instance a well-established research programme which has been feeding reliable data into a business, informing staff of customer satisfaction levels, identifying areas to focus on in order to improve those scores and providing insight on output measures, such as the propensity to recommend, the likelihood to re-shop, the likelihood to spend more and other outcomes. A research programme such as this may have proved its worth over time. However, considering that satisfaction can plateau over time, people may begin to give CSAT less attention over the life of a programme.

This falling attention level may also be dissatisfaction1
caused by situations where a manager knows
how to improve satisfaction but does not have
the budget or staff to take action.






In such situations, the researcher may need to introduce new ways of presenting their findings and the opportunities which have been unearthed by their research. They may also need to consider an alternative message. Even when insight is framed from a negative perspective, this is still often in relation to satisfaction scores, but a more fundamental change has the potential to freshen the research and generate interest.

The impact of telling a manager that customer satisfaction has gone up 2% to reach 80% may not be an attention grabbing finding, particular if the manager has seen satisfaction yo-yo between 75-85% over the past year. However, changing the focus of the message by telling the same manager that 20% of customers are unhappy may command more attention, especially once they realise that one fifth of their customers are not spending as much as they could on that company's product or services.

Reporting Dissatisfaction may seem like a major change in some cases, but in reality it can be based on the same research already undertaken. In essence, Dissatisfaction highlights a lost opportunity and what a business may be doing wrong, whilst CSAT highlights favourable customer sentiment and what a business may be doing right.

Calculating Dissatisfaction can be as simple or as sophisticated as calculating CSAT. It can be derived through a single question, or be a composite of different touch points each given their own weighting. Taking the simplest option as an example, the customer could still be asked a question aimed at quantifying their satisfaction, for example:

'On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is extremely dissatisfied and 10 is extremely satisfied, how would you rate your overall satisfaction with company x?'

To measure dissatisfaction, a point on this scale is selected and all results at or below that threshold are counted as dissatisfied customers. For example, in this case if we were to select 3 as the threshold, the dissatisfaction metric would be the percentage of respondents who scored the question 1, 2 or 3.

Image 1:


Looking at the score distributions in image 1, which is based on a sample of 100, we can see that, if CSAT was calculated as a straight average of all the responses, the results would be 60.3%.  The proportion of respondents who scored 1-3 comes in at 20%. As with any satisfaction research the Dissatisfaction score could be expanded by examining drivers to highlight areas for investment and action.

Why is it important to consider Dissatisfaction?

Apart from representing a fresh take on CSAT, there are a number of reasons why companies should consider their most disenfranchised customers. Firstly, dissatisfaction is more emotive and these are the customers who are most likely to be vocal in expressing their displeasure, whether that is through word of mouth to friends or family, commenting on social media or providing a poor review online. Such activity is damaging to a brand and impacts a company's bottom line, though that impact itself is more challenging to measure. 

A further consideration is that in some cases dissatisfaction3
may be easier and less costly to improve the
satisfaction levels of these low scoring customers
than it is to increase the scores of the proportion
of the customer base which is already satisfied,
particularly if satisfaction has begun to plateau.
In order to do this, fundamental customer needs
have to be met. For instance, if a hotel chain
failed to provide clean sheets or clean towels for its guest it would generate
dissatisfied customers, but taking the relatively straightforward steps to ensure
these items were placed into each room would have a correspondingly noticeable
positive impact on dissatisfaction levels (assuming all other things were equal).








Characteristics of dissatisfied customers include anger, stress, frustration, irritation and unhappiness. Clearly, no business should be aiming for these as part of their customer interaction and introducing dissatisfaction as a KPI can make this an area of focus which, in turn, can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction. By only focusing on CSAT, a company runs the risk of ignoring its dissatisfied customer base and not taking action against the points which cause damage to a business. Addressing dissatisfaction lessens this damage and reduces the number of detractors while also helping a company increase overall satisfaction levels.

By addressing dissatisfied customers, important lessons can be learnt which can aid growth.

Contact us to find out more.