If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around, does it make a sound?

If a bad satisfaction rating is deleted, is there still an unhappy customer?

When a bad rating comes in that leaves you thinking “that’s not fair!” it can be tempting to click that delete button and pretend it never happened. Every bad rating you receive impacts your customer satisfaction (CSAT) score. If you measure this closely, just one bad rating could mean not meeting your team goal for the month. But, even if you delete a seemingly irrelevant bad rating, there’s a customer out there who clicked the unhappy face. They don’t become satisfied, just because the rating is no longer there.

Even if you delete an irrelevant bad rating, there’s still a customer who clicked the unhappy face. Click To Tweet

In this article, we look at the most common irrelevant ratings you might see and discuss why we think ratings should (or shouldn’t!) be deleted. Keep reading to discover our conclusion…

The six most common irrelevant ratings

Irrelevant ratings are the ratings that don’t seem to directly apply to the customer service experience the customer got. They might address something completely different, come from left field or just be downright confusing. They are usually negative. Here’s a few you might recognize:

I didn’t get your response – If a customer emails in and doesn’t see your response, the follow-up survey might be their first contact from the company. As frustrating as it might be, customers tend to fill in the survey negatively, thinking you didn’t reply.

The “out of nowhere” rage – the conversation is all wrapped up, your customer says thanks and you head to the next ticket in the queue satisfied with a job well done. Then a day later, seemingly out of nowhere, you see a bad rating pop up for the ticket. “What happened?” you wonder, “I thought we’d fixed everything!”

Your product sucks – it can seem incredibly unfair to get a bad rating as a customer service rep when the customer is complaining about something out of your control. Perhaps they are disappointed a feature hasn’t been implemented yet. Maybe they are upset about pricing. As far as we know, they really just need a pink version of the product.

A case of mistaken identity – if you deal with customers of your customers, you might receive ratings meant for someone else. For example, imagine you provide software for ecommerce companies. Your customers sell fidget spinners to kids. If a fidget spinner doesn’t get delivered, do the kids contact your customer, or the website host? Users don’t always understand what’s going on behind the scenes – which leads to confusing ratings coming in!

The unfairly upset customer – some customers might just be irrationally hard to please. You’ve done everything in your power to solve their problem, offered a full refund, and sent them a box of chocolates, but they are still upset about the typo on the third page of the Getting Started guide. /shrug.

“Just testing!” – this might be a type of irrelevant rating exclusive to Nicereply, but we get “test” ratings ALL. THE. TIME. Our customers want to get hands on trying out our survey tools, which we love to see. But if we left all these test responses in our system, they would obscure the actual ratings we need to follow up on.

irrelevant CSAT rating - testing

Positive vs Negative Motivation

In order to determine whether we should delete a rating, we need to dig into our motivation behind manipulating ratings. When you see a bad rating come in, do you look at it as a blemish on your perfect record? Or is it an opportunity to do better next time?

There’s two ways we motivate ourselves to do better; positive or negative motivation. Positive motivation is striving towards a goal while negative motivation is trying to avoid a bad situation. For example, think about your bank balance. You could either be positively motivated by saving up for a down deposit on a house, or negatively motivated by the possibility of not having enough money to pay rent this month.

It’s been proven that positive motivation is more effective than negative motivation. We do a better job when we’re working towards something positive rather than running away from something negative.

How does this affect our customer service ratings? If we’re positively motivated, we’re focused on providing the best possible customer support to every user to make them happy. We focus more on possibility of turning around a bad situation. If we’re negatively motivated, we dread every bad rating. This is especially true of irrelevant bad ratings.

Negative motivation can create feelings of helplessness. We’re trying to avoid something, but we just don’t know how. When we’ve put through our very best effort, but still receive a bad rating, it can be incredibly frustrating.

If we delete a rating, it can perpetuate the feeling that bad ratings are to be avoided, not learned from. Even if the rating can seem irrelevant, there’s still an opportunity to learn from them. Take, for example, a bad rating that focuses on the product. While the customer service agent might not be able to actually make the interface pink, they can use their experience engineering skills to still make the customer feel like their feedback is heard and their opinion valued. A rating where the customer didn’t receive your response could be a sign of a bigger email deliverability problem. If you keep deleting ratings to keep your CSAT score high, you might never know. A 100% CSAT score won’t help you grow, but paying attention to uncomfortable bad ratings will.  

If we delete a rating, it can perpetuate the feeling that they are to be avoided, not learned from. Click To Tweet

Instead of working to avoid negative ratings, we should work towards a long term goal of more satisfied customers and long term customer relationships. Regardless of whether we delete the rating or not, it shouldn’t impact on our future goals.

So, should you delete?

At Nicereply, we let our customers delete bad ratings if they need to. As part of our annual Happiness awards, we exclude customers who delete 5% or more of their ratings throughout the year.

We currently delete test ratings (both good and bad!) so they don’t overwhelm our actual volume. Since we’re still growing we only receive a few hundred ratings each month. Leaving test ratings in would obscure any actionable feedback we get from our customers. But these ratings still give us helpful information! A potential customer who tests our ratings is actively interested in Nicereply. That’s good to know! The volume of test ratings also tells us that we need to build in a better way for our new customers to try out the system and understand how it works – which is something we’re actively working on!

So, should your team delete bad ratings? It’s entirely up to you. But we’d suggest asking yourself a few questions.

Before you click that delete button, think about your motivation behind it. Are you trying to make life easier on yourself? Is it about your ego and a higher CSAT rating? Or is the bad rating truly getting in the way of improving your support and product? Is this a customer telling you something important?

Maybe, there’s no such thing as an irrelevant rating. Relevance is just how you look at it.

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