Gold Standard Benchmarking For City Satisfaction Surveys

The use of benchmarks within a City Satisfaction Survey can be very useful. Benchmarks are an excellent method of comparing your city to those similarly situated, capturing and tracking data over time, and ensuring your government properly functions in a way that the evolving public demands of its residents.

What you do NOT want to do is simply use the “off the shelf” bencmarks provided by your research vendor.

Bad benchmarks mean bad data, and we must have good data to make representative public policy.

If your city is a college town, then you should compare yourself to other college towns. If you are a larger mid-west city, you should compare yourself to other larger mid-west cities. You get the idea.

The problem is that most “benchmarking data” comingles of all types of cities. It represents this “average” city that does not exist. If you are a small coastal town, do you really want to be compared to Phoenix? That is what you get with most off-the shelf benchmarking results. To make it worse, this data may be several years old.

Bad benchmarks can result in bad decisions. they can lead to the wrong indicators of performance measurement and create situations in which government officials are held to unreasonable and inaccurate standards. 

How can you tell a good benchmark from a bad one?

Consider the following questions:

  • Is the comparison fair? Did you know that different ethnic groups respond differently to surveys? Hispanics, for example, tend to give higher scores. Is your ethnic makeup similar to that used in the benchmark? And how do you know?
  • When were the measurements taken? And how much of a role does time play in the accuracy of the measurement? For example, a measurement taken before COVID is wildly different for many data points. After all, the ongoing pandemic altered countless aspects of our lives and governance. If your benchmarks don’t account for these changes, they’re worthless. 
  • What are you measuring? What you want to ask may not be included in benchmarking studies. After all, is your city like all others?
  • How old are the benchmarking scores? Satisfaction scores tend to increase over time as everyone tries to improve. Benchmarks from an older set of data may not be valid for today.  Many firms will use benchmarks from cumulative data over a span of 5 years.

Better Benchmarking

A much-improved benchmark is one that  . . .

  • Uses the exact same questionnaire.
  • At the exact same time as your resident survey.
  • In very “like” markets. Markets that are very similar to yours.

This is what we do at True North. We execute your City Satisfaction Survey in like markets at the exact same time. This data becomes your true apples-to-apples comparison point — the gold standard. From there, we track results over time, enabling you to get robust answers showing how data moves against benchmarks over time. 

And this process does not need to cost much more.  Most of the study costs are already covered (fixed study costs including questionnaire design, programming, survey methodology, and more).

This is just one more reason why True North has been named a “Most Trusted” Market Research Company. You can trust us to deliver true insights to you – not just data.