Customer Satisfaction
Distributing Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires in a Retail Environment

There are two ways customer satisfaction questionnaires can be distributed in a retail store. We highly recommend that whichever method you choose, you not change from that method. The pros and cons of each method are outlined below.

Method #1 (Handout):
At the time of each sale, the salesperson should place a questionnaire in the bag containing the merchandise (if any), or should hand the questionnaire directly to the customer. While salesperson is doing this (either dropping the questionnaire in the bag or handing it to the customer), he or she should say something like "here is a short questionnaire; we would very much appreciate it if you could give us your opinion of your shopping experience here today and drop it in the mail. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete the questionnaire."

Method #2 (Display):
Prominently display the questionnaires by the cash register. It is crucial that questionnaires always be displayed if this method is chosen.

While method #1 is the method we prefer, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, which are highlighted below:

Method #1 (Handout) will give you a more accurate reading of the true level of satisfaction felt by your customers, because more people will complete and return the questionnaire, which will minimize what we call "non-response bias." This method also has two positive impacts on the customer. First, it ensures that customer satisfaction is at the top of the employees' minds, since they are forced to think about it during every sale. Second, this method makes a positive statement about the store to the customer; that is, "they care enough about their customers to make sure that I have an opportunity to comment on their service." There also are disadvantages to this method. The first is that, in an unsupervised environment, employees can forget to give a questionnaire to a customer, or worse yet, could intentionally not give questionnaires to customers who they feel might rate them poorly. The second is that, in an unsupervised environment, an employee might try to coerce a customer into giving him or her a good rating. The last disadvantage is cost related, as many more questionnaires will be distributed.

Method #2 (Display) will give a less accurate reading of the true level of satisfaction felt by your customers, because fewer people will complete it, resulting in a larger "non-response bias." The net impact of this likely will be that the questionnaire will have more of a tendency to be picked up by people who thought the service was very good or very bad. Therefore, the answers you receive will not be as reflective of the true opinions of a random sample of your customers. The questionnaires will have a tendency to become torn and tattered, which would have a negative impact on the general impression customers have of your business. Customers who are mistreated and who notice the questionnaires may feel that management does not have its heart in customer satisfaction; that management is only "going through the motions" by providing customer satisfaction questionnaires. One of the two advantages to this method are that it is less likely (although not impossible) that a particular employee will withhold a questionnaire from a customer who they believe is dissatisfied. A second advantage is the lower cost of printing the questionnaires, since fewer will be distributed. The cost savings from this last "advantage" probably are greatly outweighed by "opportunity cost" of not having employees hand questionnaires to every customer.