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2009-06-25: Customer Satisfaction Surveys In Economics

Economics is a system for analyzing and understanding monetary systems. Economics can be expressed in terms of decisions. People must decide what to buy and what to sell. Sellers, or producers, must also decide how to go about producing whatever they decide will be profitable. Financial studies often assume that people make their decisions in ways that maximize benefits while minimizing costs.

In theory, this is usually the case. In practice, however, making efficient choices is often a difficult and complex process in itself. One tool that producers (of both goods and services) rely on heavily in modern times is customer satisfaction surveys.

Customer satisfaction surveys are used to determine the relative values of products and of specific characteristics of those products. They can also be used to determine how an individual product can be designed to maximize its value while minimizing its cost. For example, a restaurant might use one to determine the extent to which patrons value the quality of the food, the cleanliness of the restrooms, the friendliness of the wait staff, the atmosphere of the dining room, and any number of other things. They can be utilized best when examining such factors in great detail.

Relatively speaking, how important is the flavor of the food, the temperature at which it is served, nutritional value, presentation, and how do these values compare to one another? Surveys could look even more closely at the importance of one of these factors, such as nutritional value. Is fat content the main concern of your patrons, or are they more interested in vitamins and minerals? How worried are they about cholesterol compared to sodium? Do they count calories? As you can see, questionnaires are nearly limitless in potential scope and specificity.

Every industry has to satisfy clientele of some kind. This is, eventually, the only legitimate source of profit for a company. The better a business knows the tastes, needs, and desires of its clientele, the more it can satisfy them, and therefore produce revenue. In business, choices must be made. Experts call the source of this need for choices scarcity of resources. Basically, because resources (labor, materials, time, etc.) are limited, not all wants can be met. Even if a product contains the satisfaction of every want it relates to, there is a limit on its price: it can't be given away for free. If it can, it does not exist in the domain of business or economics. (Air is an example of this.)

In order to make decisions about what characteristics are worth pursuing, and to what extent (or at what cost) they are worth pursuing, businesses can ask their patrons. When analyzed systematically using statistics, these can quantify the values of products or characteristics of products. This allows businesses to make mathematically sound and efficient choices.

Statistical analysis and the design of customer satisfaction surveys is a complicated problem, some businesses specialize in providing this service. Interestingly, the design and analysis of customer satisfaction surveys is itself a commodity, and so participates in the system it supports.

Economics studies the decisions that people make in order to satisfy their needs and desires. Since surveys determine and quantify the relative values of needs and desires, they form part of the basis for the data that economics analyzes (cost and benefits).

This relationship can also work backwards. That is, economic data can be used analytically to bolster the data used by customer satisfaction surveys to determine the relative values of products. When people choose to buy certain goods or certain brands of a single type of good, they demonstrate their preferences. They can be used to collect data on the economic choices people make. In this way, economic choices and the values that underlie those choices are inter-related studies.

About the Author

Andy West is a writer for NBRI, dedicated to the implementation and follow through of business's customer satisfaction surveys. For more information please visit NBRII.com.


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