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You don’t get the right answers if you’re asking the wrong questions. It’s an even bigger problem when you’re only asking one question.

For more than a decade, many companies have attempted to weigh customer loyalty through a promoter score system that asks a single question: Would a customer would recommend a business to someone else.

Based on how consumers score that answer, businesses have made big decisions like how to tailor marketing, serve customers and position their businesses.

To state the obvious—one question is limiting. For one thing, there’s zero context. Someone might call themselves loyal, but promoter scoring does nothing to dig deeper into that answer. Many times, a consumer who identifies herself as loyal to a bank might simply be apathetic. Rather than go through the process of switching accounts, the customer feels it’s simply easier to stay in the same place. That’s a sure sign that this customer’s “loyalty” is unlikely to generate more business to your bank. Without knowing why someone continues to remain a customer, you can’t possibly set a strategy to capitalize on loyalty. Worse, banks end up misinterpreting customer behavior (staying) with customer feeling (being “loyal”).

More importantly, simply asking if someone would refer another customer to a bank doesn’t accurately capture whether the person you’re asking will stay. Many consumers will express loyalty until it’s tested, whether that’s by a rival bank’s better marketing or superior rates and offers. In this case, people may seem loyal and enthusiastically recommend a bank, but they are perfectly happy to jump ship when something more attractive comes along.

Lastly, even looking at a single satisfaction point doesn’t guarantee you are going to have customers who are happy with their experience. While 70% of those using Bank of America as their primary financial institution claim to be satisfied overall, only half (51.6%) say Bank of America meets their expectations or makes them feel like valued customers (49.8%), according to data compiled by Informa Research Service’s SEA Score, which measures member and customer engagement. The takeaway: customers who express loyalty are just as likely to leave as they are to remain.

That doesn’t mean your research needs to involve a ton of questions. Asking too many questions of your customers can be as misguided as asking just one. But you need to ask the right questions to get the most useful answers.

For more information on Informa Research Services' customer engagement and loyalty research and The SEA Score™ program, contact us at 800.848.0218 or email

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