There are many ways to “score” or “scale” a survey.  How the scale is devised and how the resulting responses are analysed and interpreted can have a dramatic impact on how surveys are responded to and how the results are used.

Most people have seen written survey formats where the question is read and then the response is recorded by writing a cross in one of a series of boxes alongside the question.

A “front end loaded” survey is one approach used with this format, usually offering response choices such as “excellent, good, fair and poor”.

In that series, there are two positive responses, one neutral response, and one negative response.  The scale is “front end loaded” in that there are more “good” responses than “bad” ones.

The subliminal message the scale delivers is that the sender of the survey presumes there won’t be that many negative replies.  The subconscious mind gets the message and responds accordingly.

With our scale the response alternatives are balanced –

Totally Satisfied

Somewhat Satisfied

Somewhat Dissatisfied


Totally Dissatisfied.

A fifth alternative, No Reply, or Insufficient Information to Evaluate, provides a catchall for uncertainty, but does not encourage any specific reply.


“Totally Satisfied” is unambiguous.

The importance of using “Totally Satisfied” is simple.  The term is unambiguous, unlike Good and Excellent.  When you “need” a burger (let’s be specific here – a Big Mac Breakfast!) you can be totally satisfied with what you get.  It’s not a fillet steak.  It wasn’t cooked by Gordon Ramsay.  But its what you wanted at the time.  When taking part in a survey, subliminal snobbery might have led you to say that the burger was OK.  But you were still totally satisfied.

For multinationals the unambiguous nature of the phrase is even more important.  We have checked and checked again over twenty-five years of international surveys using all of the main business languages (and some more obscure ones).  Totally satisfied translates better than any other term.

Those who are only “Somewhat Satisfied” will generally check out the competition – shop around for alternatives – before deciding whether or not they will come back to you. Those who are “Dissatisfied” are probably lost customers.

Totally Satisfied customers are, by and large, loyal.

Please also see our Library of Questions and Statements