By Elliot H. Clark
In the fairy tale Snow White, the “less than criticism-friendly” Queen has a magic mirror that tells her that she is not the fairest of them all. This enrages the Queen, so instead of looking at her imperfections in the mirror and contacting a dermatologist, or perhaps the royal plastic surgeon, for a nip and tuck, she becomes vengeful and goes after an innocent kid who has to hide out with seven dwarfs. Now, you may be wondering what does this have to do with human resources or HRO Today? Ironically, lately, this all-too-true tale has everything to do with it.
Each year, we do eight customer satisfaction studies that we brand as the HRO Today Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Surveys. We rank the top 13 providers and, in some cases, up to 26 providers in an industry vertical. Our latest reader survey puts our credibility at 93 percent and more than 80 percent of our readers use the Baker’s Dozen ratings in the selection of service providers. I wanted to get that statistic out there first. For all the providers reading this, our CREDIBILITY is rated at 93 percent!
Each year, providers that achieve a ranking on the list for the first time or ones ranking near the top of the list scramble to get myself or Debbie Bolla to provide supportive quotes for press releases and for social media. We are always happy to accommodate as we want companies to be proud and respectful of their customers’ ratings of their performance.
I should point out that this survey is unlike many industry others that are based on analysts’ interpretations of providers’ own self-reported questionnaires and a discussion with two or three clients. Our survey is based on actual customer feedback, so HR practitioners complete the surveys as a community service for all other practitioners who consume the same service. Each year when I do the video announcement, we reiterate that the survey is not HRO Today’s opinion or that of our own respected research unit led by Larry Basinait. It is solely based on CUSTOMER FEEDBACK.
We go to great lengths to verify surveys, to guide survey takers, and to protect the anonymity of survey takers. We solicit surveys from providers and we know they “cherry pick” among their clients and even allow for that. However, we also get a significant percentage of survey takers from our own outreach as a counterbalance. We even compare the samples to make sure providers are not being “overly” diligent in screening out all but the happiest customers.
However, each year—here it comes—we get complaints from providers that feel they did not move up the list to the level they would like, or feel they are “better” than another company that ranked above them. They also complain they are “bigger,” which doesn’t actually guarantee they are “better.” I am tired of explaining to them that we rate the “quality of service” dimension most heavily rather than size. In fact, I am tired of these conversations. I find that companies cannot wait to get a press release one year, lauding the accuracy of the survey and its validity, yet then question that validity the following year due to a poor showing. After all, they’re flawless—just ask their “mirror.” A few of them have even threatened to stop advertising in HRO Today. We are reliant on provider advertising and sponsorship, but what draws them is the popularity of HRO Today with the HR audience. These threats are usually met with my suggestion that we do sever our commercial relationship. The best way to stop a bully is to challenge them on the spot.
To be fair, some unhappy providers seek help in identifying where they showed weakness and learn from it, so I do not want to suggest that all of these conversations are petulant.
But for those providers who call us in an incredulous and threatening way, I have a suggestion: take a moment for, wait for it, INTROSPECTION. Yes, instead of trying to poison Snow White, try to make your customers happier and do a better job managing the survey sample collection process (many wait until the last week, frankly, and their customers know it). You can’t talk up your Baker’s Dozen results when you like them and question them when you don’t. If your customer gave you mediocre ratings, instead of arguing with us, why not show customers the kind of service they expect and ensure they are not disappointed.
As for calling or threatening HRO Today because there are cracks in your mirror—well, your bad luck started long before it was revealed on our survey.