By Elliot H. Clark
Seven years ago I was given the privilege to lead HRO Today and since then many people have asked me questions about the Baker’s Dozen programs that we run each year. Most of the questions are about how we do it and a few on why we do it. I was reminded of the why this year when we had two providers tell us they wanted to opt out of their participation.
I want to be clear. This program is not “optional” based on a provider’s choice.
Asking out of a HRO Today Magazine Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction survey is tantamount to telling Consumer Reports that you cannot test our toaster or our automobiles for quality. You would not want to buy that product and that is a pretty reasonable reaction on the part of any consumer.
When it comes to the service lines for which we do these customer satisfaction surveys—talent management software, relocation, recognition, screening, recruitment process outsourcing, and managed service provider programs—we are not doing them for the benefit of providers. This is for information exchange among the senior executive group of practitioners that read our magazine. While our commercial model involves financial support from these same providers, the Baker’s Dozen program is an editorial undertaking and we cannot let providers or any client drive our editorial decisions.
The purpose of this program is to create an anonymous and codified approach to an exchange of information between actual users of these services. For the program to work, HR leaders must take the survey voluntarily and offer their most candid feedback regardless of whatever influences are present. We do not count “perfect” or “vengeful” survey responses as they do not provide value—objective and candid responses are critical.
Our surmise in the past is that companies that want to “opt out” of what is not an optional process do so for a reason. We believe that the reason is a concern about declination in their quality of service and the negative impact on the customer relationship. Without positive relationships to refer, they want to remove themselves from the process. They clothe this request to HRO Today under the excuse: We do not want our clients to be burdened with an additional survey. We respect the time of the survey takers, but this is not the decision of your provider. It’s yours.
The popularity and widespread usage of this survey is gratifying to us. In fact, our 2014 HRO Today Magazine Reader Survey found that 79 percent of respondents say that a ranking on the Baker’s Dozen lists influenced their decision when selecting a provider. We believe it is due to the simple and transparent way we present the data. We do not release the identity of the raters so they cannot be pressured after the fact or the individual weightings of questions so respondents cannot be coached. Beyond that everything is disclosed. We also own Corporate Responsibility Magazine and produce the “100 Best Corporate Citizens List” each year. We promote transparency as a corporate value and practice it ourselves as a core value. To discourage you from taking a survey is to act against the practice of transparency.
This year we received enough surveys voluntarily to rate even those companies that asked to opt out. We compared client by client the feedback from prior years. Viewing the surveys from the clients that took the survey in both years on a year-over-year basis, both providers who chose to opt out showed a decline in overall customer satisfaction.
We spend too much time doing quality research to believe that a two company sample is definitive proof of our theorem, but it is an indicator that we may have a point.
While as a practitioner of HR you may say, “Why do I need feedback? I know what my own experience is with this provider.” But you will most likely need more than one provider to review in your next RFP and this feedback is valuable. In addition, if in any given year, you have any service concerns, the HRO Today Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Survey provides you with a model that allows you to see if there is a degradation of issues across that provider’s larger portfolio and answer the all important question: Is this a problem on my account or a systemic issue with this company?
Let us be fair, this is a comparative ranking of the elite and differences between number one and number 13 are less important than knowing who matches to you based on the scope and size of program you need and to ensure that the companies that fit have great service. It gives you an external touch point based not upon references you were provided in the sales process, but across an entire marketplace.
We thank everyone who took the survey for their valuable time and feedback. This is, once again, a survey with hundreds of companies and respondents and close to the largest feedback sample we have ever received. We hope you find it valuable to you in the coming season and look forward to your feedback every year.