At a recent dinner party I explained what I do for a living. One attendee responded, “Well, then can you please call Delta, and tell them I want wider seats?”
I responded, “Actually, you don’t. People say they want wider seats, but their behavior says that they really don’t.”
“Oh, you mean the hypothetical general public doesn’t want wider seats?”
“No, Bill.” I responded. “I mean that you specifically don’t want wider seats.”
The problem with many customer experience surveys is that they recommend the equivalent of “make my seats wider.” It’s a common practice to ask customers to rate importance for different factors, then compare that to satisfaction. But it just doesn’t work. Since you measure each item in isolation, everything is free. And so there’s nothing to ensure that respondents’ answers match their actual behaviors. Expensive things like wider seats have just as much weight as free peanuts.
To show what I mean, let’s play this out. I call Delta and somehow find the magical IVR prompts to reach the right person. She hears my plea and responds, “My goodness – you’re right! We’ve been looking at this wrong! We’ll fix that immediately.” So they remove one chair from each row to allow for wider seats. What will happen? Will travelers flock to Delta to take advantage of the space?