Microspeak: Sats

I introduced this Microspeak last year as part of a general entry about management-speak, but I'm giving it its own entry because it deserves some attention on its own.

I just want to have creative control over how my audience can interact with me without resorting to complex hacking in a way that is easy to explain but ups our blogging audiences sats to a new level that may also stimulate a developer ecosytem that breeds quality innovation...

Ignore the other management-speak; we're looking at the weird four-letter word sats.

Sats is short for satisfaction metrics. This falls under the overall obsession on measurement at Microsoft. For many categories of employees (most notably the approximately 1000 employees eligible for the so-called Shared Performance Stock Awards program), compensation is heavily influenced by customer satisfaction metrics, known collectively as CSAT.

Satisfaction metrics are so important that they have their own derived jargon.

Jargon Meaning Description
VSAT Very satisfied Percentage of customers who report that they are very satisfied.
DSAT Dissatisfied Percentage of customers who report that they are somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
NSAT Net satisfaction NSAT = VSAT − DSAT

All of these jargon terms are pronounced by saying the first letter, followed by the word sat, so for example, NSAT is pronounced N-sat.

You can see some of these metrics in use in a blog post from the Director of Operations at Microsoft.com. Notice how he uses the terms VSAT and DSAT without bothering to explain what they mean. The meanings are so obvious to him that it doesn't even occur to him that others might not know what they mean. (By comparison, Kent Sharkey includes a definition when he uses the term.)

And if you haven't gotten enough of this jargon yet, there's an entire training session online on the subject of the Customer Satisfaction Index. If you're impatient, click ahead to section 9.

Comments (27)
  1. unsat says:

    There must be an NP-complete joke in there somewhere.

  2. Paul M. Parks says:

    God, I hate management-speak. That blog post by the Director of Operations — is that even English? I wonder what a "framework of Commitments" is.

  3. James Curran says:

    I do find it interesting that the people who are specifically "satisfied" don't figure into the "net satisfication" metric.

  4. Pierre B. says:

    ZamesCuran: They are accounted for. The goal is evaluating overall satisfaction. They obviously rate very satisfied as +1, dissatisfied as -1 and satisfied as 0. Thus, when summing overall satisfaction, you can ignore the satisfied. It's a useful trick as long as you don't want more sophisticated statistics, like deviation, etc.

  5. Mott555 says:

    I have always assumed that your micro-speak stories are exaggerated to make them more humorous. After reading that blog post by the Director of Operations, I see I was mistaken.

  6. dalek says:

    The Director of Operations blog probably got their largest number of views ever due to this post!

  7. Ian says:

    So many satisfaction surveys seem to revolve around the question "On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend us to your friends or colleagues?" Supposedly this has become the perfect metric of customer satisfaction. http://www.businessweek.com/…/b3969090.htm

    If I can be bothered to answer this flawed question in at all, I usually give a five, by which I mean "I don't normally give that kind of recommendation." The inevitable response is to be asked why I was dissatisfied with my experience.

    My other pet hate is satisfaction surveys that will not let me submit the survey if I have not answered every question – especially when they include a multiple choice question where none of the options are applicable.

  8. Paul M. Parks says:

    @Ian: I like the phrase "pet hate." It could easily be turned into a management metric: "We need to drive our sats in a direction that facilitates a reduction in customer-sourced hates."

  9. Voo says:

    I'm not sure WHAT language that is, but I'm almost certain it is neither English, Latine, Japanese nor German. I think google should add a management-speak to their translation service..

  10. DSN says:

    I like how the new year kicks off on an annual basis. Unlike all those years which don't?

  11. unekdoud says:

    I thought it was an obvious pun on "stats".

    Also, after identifying VSAT as "very satisfied" and DSAT as "dissatisfied", I would have guessed CSAT as "completely satisfied", and maybe NSAT as "not satisfied" or "no info on satisfaction".

    @Ian: Just having to answer one of those surveys already reduces the satisfaction level. I would thus expect satisfaction surveys to be quite inaccurate.

  12. Phil W says:

    That management speak in the D of O blog is just impenetrable. Wins, challenges, realign commitments, Vision, world class, productized material, "opportunities as a lever to realign people". "execute against customer commitments". How can people say so much and convey so little? But perhaps that's the point.

  13. dave says:

    On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend us to your friends or colleagues?"

    What the service or product is,  the likelihood that I'll go around "recommending" it to anyone approaches zero. I'm just not in business of promoting services and products.

    Well, perhaps I'll recommend a restaurant or a bottle of wine on occasion.

  14. Brian says:

    For those surveys, pretend your friend asked you, "hey, do you know of some good software that does _____?"

  15. Larry Lard says:

    That blogpost *has* to be a joke, right? RIGHT??

  16. Hardware Junkie says:

    The interweb never forgets. The "Director of Operations" post is from 2006, and the blog appears to have fallen off someone's commitments in December of 2008. That said…

    MS' obsession with data is amusing. Would they looked at simpler metrics like "how long does it take to fulfill a TechNet e-subscription request?" The last time I did that, it took a WEEK. I can buy and download just about anything in an hour, say 2GB of Adobe Creative Suite, but it takes a week to send me a password?

    Along around 2004 I got a 60 question survey from facilities asking me about how I felt about my office furniture. Nowhere did it ask about how I liked working in the jail (bldg 36), that my office was now 8'6"x9'6", that it was a 100yd walk to the loo, that the doors were falling off the cupboards in the kitchen after just a few weeks, that the locks on the stalls in the loo often jammed requiring an under-stall-door egress (or phone a friend), or that the drive out of the parking garage could take 15 minutes. The only bldg I've seen that had multiple DCRs. DATA! Measurement without meaning.

  17. Cheong says:

    @Voo: I second that idea.

    Management speaks are alway cryptic for me and it needs translation. However, on the second thought, it could be too difficult for whoever to write translation engine for it. Heck, I bet sometimes even the person who say it can't understand what they're talking about.

  18. Scott says:

    If you only count very or not satisfied, are they failing to measure all the Raymonds of the world who report being "satisfied"? And if we can't measure Raymond, can we be sure he exists?

  19. Ian says:

    In my experience, the people who give the least comprehensible and most jargon-packed explanations are usually those who have the least understanding of the subject matter.

  20. GWO says:

    The next time we are told that a certain decision was made "for solid technical/engineering reasons" or based on "features start at -100", it'll be worth remembering that managers and directors — i.e. the people who actually make the decisions — not only don't use those criteria, but don't even speak the language in which those criteria are written.

  21. Pi says:

    I'd like to know if management speak is used outside of the US. Here in Germany I was only confronted with pretty clear language up until now. But this also might be because I work for a company where technology people are mostly "promoted" to management.

  22. Chris J says:

    He may have felt he didn't need to explain – not because it didn't occur to him that it needed explaining – but it may be that the target readership for that blog is people that already understand that terminology. I don't expect Raymond to explain all the jargon he uses in this blog, for example :-)

    Each trade and job has it's own unique language — managers have management-speak and introduce odd acronyms like DSAT/VSAT; those that work in the city – definately have their own (does anyone else understand exactly what a CDO is [other than a collateral debt obligation]).

    But so do techies, and within the technical world networking people will have different jargon to programmers. The folk that fix your car will speak of lamda sensors an ECUs; it wouldn't suprise me to find that the folk that fix your washing machine have their own little world of TLA jargon.

    Jargon makes the people in that area of work feel part of that job, to the isolation of all others, and allows them to confuse and obfuscate when talking to those that do not know. The problem is when jargon gets in the way of communication, which happens between everyone :-)

  23. Rick C says:

    Satisfaction surveys are getting out of control.  I bank at a large American bank–I won't name names, but they're the one that began with W that just in July mostly stopped existing as a separate entity, being folded into another bank that begins with W–and lately every time I go into a branch, everyone in there insists on saying "Hello, welcome to W!" and in the last week, they now as you to rate their performance on a scale of 1 to 5.  You know what?  I'm not looking for exceptional service when I want to deposit a check, just a quick interaction.  In fact, if you are polite, get the transaction done fast, etc., all the time, then technically excellent service is average, not exceptional.  I'm rapidly approaching the point where I want to tell them "well, I'd've given you a 5 except I'm sick of your neediness, so I'm reducing your score" but it's not really the teller's fault, so I don't.

  24. James Schend says:

    @Hardware Junkie: In the spirit of this post, what the heck is a DCR?

  25. Bolt says:

    They don't include "satisfied" or "neutral" because it's about measuring net detractors and promoters.  People who are just satisfied, or neutral, aren't going to go around telling everyone.  Only those with strong opinions in one direction or another (that they pass on to others) will affect public perception.

  26. Feroze says:

    @James: DCR == Design Changed Request

  27. nobugz says:

    Ah, yes, I've been at the receiving end of this as a moderator at the MSDN forums.  Wildly popular with Microsoft customers back 4 years ago or so with lots of volunteers posting really good answers.  Joe Morel, the forums boss back then shared insight in the way it was presented inside MSFT.  A report that showed the one thing they could measure: the number of questions that got an answer mark.

    Not happy enough with the VSAT number, they hired a crew in Shanghai to get the number up.  Who promptly set out to do what they were hired for, marking a question answered without much regard for an actual answer.  Big backslash from the customers whom actually cared for a real one, not sustainable.

    Take two was adding a feature to mark an answer "helpful", available to anybody.  Didn't work, customers still really only cared about getting a real answer.  Brillant next move: allow a poster of an answer to also mark his answer as helpful.  You can find us back at stackoverflow.com today.

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