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I was at a conference a few weeks ago and struck up a pleasant conversation with an insurance company’s Customer Service manager. In the course of conversation, I found out that our group had proposed doing some customer satisfaction research for his company. He explained to me that his superiors chose to spend their money on some different research, not because it would give him meaningful data about his customers, but because it would rank them against other call centers across the nation. The end result, by his admission, was that he doesn’t know any more about what will help him satisfy his customers and make tactical decisions to drive their loyalty – but he does have a nicely framed certificate in his office telling him his call center ranks 44th in the country.

I understand the temptation. It’s nice to be able to have some bragging rights and prove to your superiors how you compare to the call center down the street. The problem is, it doesn’t ultimately matter how you compare to the call center down the street. What is ultimately going to impact your company and your bottom line is how you measure up against the expectations of the customers who are calling you each day. If you’re going to spend money on research, invest in something that’s going to give you ROI in the form of valid, actionable data. Get results you can use to make strategic decisions about where you will invest your time, energy and resources. Where does your customer rank you? That’s the only profitable ranking there is for long-term success.