Applying Scales to Human Emotions

Applying Scales to Human Emotions

What’s in a number?

Quite a lot, if you’re incentivising agents on it. Or marketing your service based on it. But what does 9.2 or 97.5% really mean? What do these numbers represent? What are they trying to tell us?

Most importantly, how good is the data they’re based on?

Surveys of any sort (NPS, CSAT, and probably the rest), which ask an individual to rate some “feeling” on a numbered scale have issues.

Question context is not always obvious

When a survey lands in my inbox, it’s not always clear what they’re asking. As a support “professional”, I can recognise NPS as the classic ‘how likely am I to recommend’ question, but as a layperson, the question might be a little confusing. Most people don’t realise the NPS question is seeking information about the organisation, not the service you just received. Where does that confusion take a human person? To make a best guess at what they ought to respond. Or not respond at all.

Question inference isn’t always obvious

Surveys are only as good as the questions you ask. There are subtle differences between “Would you recommend…”, “Are you happy with….” and “How satisfied are you with…”. Yet I’d venture that most people don’t read the small print, and just stab at an approximate number.

Cultural bias is a thing

I don’t like to draw on national stereotypes and common tropes, but I’m gonna. Some cultures are more prepared to give 5/5 than others. Speaking for my own people (British, in case you weren’t aware); generally, we are a little less inclined to offer full marks even if we’ve had exemplary service, than our American cousins. 

And here I must stray into a little aside. Once, I was passed over for a relatively minor but deserved promotion because my average survey score was 4.3, not the requisite 4.5 average. I could easily query the surveys returned and show I was getting significantly more 5/5s from the US clients than the British clients. The problem? My timezone. I was working a UK day shift, exclusively serving British customers for about 70% of the day. You can probably guess how hard I tried to achieve that goal next time the opportunity presented itself.

Subjectivity exists

Nationalities aside, my 7 is not the same as your 7. Heck, my own 7 on a Monday is not even the same as my own 7 on a Friday. Sometimes, I’ve had a long day. Sometimes, I’ve had some chocolate. Sometimes, your promised ‘2-minute survey’ was difficult to get to and I arrived at it a little irritated.

It’s fairly reasonable to assume that such subjectivities will be ironed out in large data sets. Many small organisations with low volumes, however, choose to place as much significance on a single number as larger businesses serving thousands of customers a day.

Numbers don’t…fit

Ever had that nagging feeling that you wish this scale was out of 10 instead of 5? Or 100 instead of 10? I have. Maybe I’m a little exact, but the inexactitude of some scales frustrates me. And so I under-mark. I’d rather give an organisation 9 out of 10 than 10 out of 10, if there was something tiny but irritating in the experience. Out of 100, they might well have got a 98.

Ultimately, I just want the opportunity to tell an organisation what’s on my mind. I don’t want to have to try and measure it, codify it, then translate it to your scale. That’s your job. 

(Just FYI, some of the links on this site are affiliate links. That means that I get a small commission if you click through and try a product or service that interests you. That’s all at no extra cost to you, but it does help support this existing content and continue to produce other content in the future that I’m sure you’ll love).