The Fallacy of Measuring Feelings, or How to Capture Lighting in a Bottle

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Feelings cannot be measured.

Lighting cannot be caught in a bottle.

Cold Fusion is (for now) a dream.

The only difference between these three statements is that some people will actually believe that the first one is wrong. They are the ones who will try to measure customer satisfaction or customer loyalty. The same way that we can never answer the question of how much do we love something (feelings are, by definition, a non-finite quantity) or someone, we cannot determine how satisfied or loyal a customer really is.

All we do when we set out to measure these feelings is to capture an interpretation of a sentiment frozen in an instant- the moment they answer the question. It is very likely that given a different set of environmental variables the same user will rate the same experience differently. What was an “exceptional experience” before becomes an “acceptable interaction” after they get a parking ticket, and ends up being an “unacceptable transaction” when they get into an argument with their spouse later on.

The question is: why do we try to measure feelings?

Somewhere, someone convinced business leaders that the true measure of how well their business is doing is whether customers are satisfied. However, this same person forgot to provide a definition of “satisfaction” that was measurable and repeatable. Thus,we end up asking someone how satisfied they are with a transaction.Their answer, at least 80% of the time, is “satisfied”.

It reminds me of  an episode of Seinfeld when George wanted to find out if his date thought he was as satisfying as a risotto she had for dinner -which she adored.  Her answer (paraphrasing): “you cannot compare a risotto with a boyfriend when it comes to satisfaction”.

Are you trying to compare your experiences with risotto?

Image via flickr

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