Frustrated : a story of customer service and data format

Frustration - lack of responsiveness from survey providersYou know something that really annoys me ? It’s the way that the large survey providers tend to treat their customers in the GCC.

Let me share an example. I have more, from other providers – maybe I’ll write them up too in the future.

The customer by the way, yes, that’s me. And you.

I suppose that you participate to compensation surveys. Like all of us, you do so in order to compare your pay to market and establish the policies and practices that will allow you to attract, retain and reward the talent that your organisation needs to reach its objectives. The usual bla bla…

In 2012, my team and I participated to as many surveys as possible, both from large and niche compensation providers. I wanted to be able to compare the quality and depth of results across the providers in order to decide which ones to focus on in the coming 2/3 years.

And guess what ?One of the “Big 3” refuses to send us survey results in a format that will allow us to actually use the data.

We submit information on an employee by employee basis, with a job matching for each of them. Beyond the fancy graphs that senior management likes so much but that are barely useful for true compensation analysis, I expect to receive back an Excel sheet with market data based on the job matching for each of the employees I submitted.

Simply put, I want my submission file back, with extra columns indicating market results on the main components of the pay package, such as basic, guaranteed cash (monthly fixed including allowances), and bonus information. This then allows me to select the most relevant market data and use it for multiple purposes such as updating salary ranges, informing decisions on salary review budgets, or supporting recruitment in identifying reasonable packages for candidates.

Yet, this very large survey provider insists on only providing us with PDF files showing survey results based on their job descriptions, and the said graphs showing nice but general regression curves showing median and quartile market data as well as our own pay regression curve.

This means we can’t use the data for individual market benchmarking, unless we type, manually, the survey results into our own Excel file (time-consuming and error-prone). The information is in their database yet they won’t give it to us. And it’s not that they can’t do it : in Europe, I have always received from them the said information in the format I need.

Now, I know that in the Gulf, very few companies have Compensation & Benefits departments that actually know, care or are staffed enough to use the data on an individual basis as well as for collective study. But wherever I work, this degree of in-depth analysis is what I expect to produce or have my team produce.

This lack of responsiveness from the provider makes me so mad that I am seriously considering stopping participating to this survey, despite the fact that they have the largest bank of data in the region. What is the point in paying so much money to receive results we can’t use simply because they won’t run a report to extract the information from their database ?

In the GCC, the large survey providers tend to rely on their dominant position in the market to impose whatever they want to their clients, without paying much attention to what the client wants or says.

Eventually, it all comes down to (lack of) customer service and attention to the needs of the client. The niche survey providers and smaller consultants often provide much better quality in that area, but sometimes their data is not entirely reliable because they don’t have enough participants.

So in the end as the client, it is a delicate exercise to balance general survey results based on a large database but not necessarily useful to me, and sometimes incomplete for some of my specific positions, with more industry-relevant survey results from the niche providers. I can’t wait for the culture of benchmarking and sharing information to become more widespread in the region, so we can see the rise of real challengers in the compensation survey industry in the Middle East !

What do you say ? Do you sometimes feel like shaking your head in frustration or disbelief, or are you happy with the service given by the large survey providers in the region ? Share your stories in the comments section !


Related posts :

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Sandrine —- hello lady! I am happy to comment here. Don’t be a victim.

    1) talk to the survey vendor and explain your concern.
    2) if there is an HR association/group that meets in your location talk to the members and see if they have same problems
    3) if no one iin #2 understands the concept you are explaining give a seminar on it for all local HR people —- advertise however you need to but you need to make it a BIG deal
    4) are your other survey vendors able to accommodate you? If so use that to pressure the problem vendor
    5) when the next big global HR conference occurs speak on this topic and make sure everyone reallly understands and agrees that vendors need provide customers with service
    6) write about it on LinkedIn under a number of HR groups. Write about it for Compensation Cafe.
    7) write about it (basically use the same article) in C&B Review. They have a “blog” now to accommodate people that don’t like “formal” types of articles that are “researchy”. Yes I write for them and know Howard Risher and talked to him recently and learned about their new blog
    8) write about it in TLNT, HR Executive, World at Work, etc. I mean BLITZ it!
    In other words bring pressure to bear!!
    9) Speaking at SHRM, etc. conferences you should come close to revealing your problem vendor. You can do this by naming several of the surveys that you recommend that give you what you want. By leaving out the problem vendor you make your point.

    Any way you can get this in public. I know it’s work but don’t, don’t, don’t just cave in and privately decide that your won’t participate in their survey anymore.

    I don’t know how large your company is. The larger the more influential you are as a customer.
    If large — use your clout.

    I don’t take crap from vendors. You pay a lot — you should get a lot. I totally understand your frustration. Just get it out in public!!!!!

    • Hi Jacque,

      Thanks a lot for your support !

      Writing this post is exactly part of my strategy to make this issue more public and educate people in the UAE and Gulf about this issue. Given I have the only C&B blog in the region, I’m now using this platform to reach out beyond the small networking groups that serve as “industry association”.

      The provider in question is by far the largest in the region and just won’t listen to our requests. They feel comfortable because to be honest, a vast majority of their clients are fine only with the general results in pdf format (you know, for example : Sales Manager pay ranges from X to Y). The clients don’t know or don’t have time/mandate to use this information in a systematic manner, on an individual and collective manner… which requires an Excel format. And the clients are happy with the standard graph with the classic regression curve to show to their top management as an indication of whether they have, or don’t have, a pay issue in the company. They don’t go through the extra workload of the detailed analysis.

      The few that are not happy with the provider still participate to the survey because it is, no question, the one with the most data points and not using it may hurt their internal credibility. For me, it’s easy to leave that provider, because they don’t have information on positions that are industry-specific and crucial for my organisation. If I stop participating this year, it will make noise and hopefully will have an impact. (My company is quite influential in the country, being large, visible and across multiple new industries).

      I had not thought of LinkedIn groups though and will follow your advice.

      Thanks again for brainstorming ideas πŸ™‚

  2. Sandrine

    While I understand Jacque’s comments and fully support you in your situation, why don’t you simply go straight to the CEOMD of the consulting company and explain your situation. You are probably dealing with a section head who has been advised not to provide anything more than the pdf file and you won’t get them to move.

    I’m sure if you explain your case, your company and more importantly the potential negative impact you can have as a ‘unhappy customer’ through your blog and other media, they will see sense.


Speak Your Mind