Section 12: Consumer Satisfaction

In your CIL’s annual PPR, you will be asked to report on your consumers’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the CIL’s services. For example:

  • Were services “accessible” (fully useable, available, workable)?
  • Did they meet the consumer’s expectations of “quality”?
  • If the consumer had potential risks for institutionalization, were the services a part of their avoiding institutionalization?
  • Did the consumer feel in control of their independent living plan?
  • Does the consumer now feel more in control of their life?
  • Would they recommend the CIL’s programs to someone else?

Learning the answers to these questions not only meets the requirements of ACL, it accomplishes something for the CIL that is more meaningful. It provides you with a method to build a successful relationship between the CIL and consumers and other stakeholders. You, the staff, and the board of directors may believe that the CIL is doing an excellent job, and that may be true, but the only way to know how consumers feel is to ask them. If consumers are not giving feedback on the quality and workability of the CIL’s services and interactions, the CIL is not truly consumer controlled.

Here are some key elements of consumer feedback to keep in mind:

  1. Identify what it is that you want to know. If you have a goal that consumers will express that they learned at least one new independent living skill that they are now using, then that is one of the questions you ask.
  2. Decide at the beginning how you want to use the information gathered.  In addition to reporting to ACL, will you give feedback to your staff to help inform their job performance? Will you provide summary data to your board as a sort of report card on how the CIL is doing? Will you use it as a management tool for yourself and program managers? Will you educate policymakers about how relevant and important the CIL is to the community? All of these are excellent uses of this type of data. This will drive the questions you ask.
  3. Determine how comprehensive you want the survey to be. Too many questions may result in fewer responses, so keep the survey as short and simple as you can and still have it useful. The questions should be readily answerable.
  4. Decide how you will distribute the survey. Surveys mailed out to consumers once a year do not typically have a good response rate. Some people don’t remember who they got a service from or its impact on their life if it was too far in the distant past. Have you thought about having someone call them to get their responses? Or have each staff person they work with hand them a satisfaction post card to drop in a drop box? Or give them something with business reply postage, so they can easily mail it back? Perhaps a computer at the CIL could be dedicated for consumers to enter their responses online while they are at the Center.
  5. Prepare yourself and the staff for negative feedback. A process for expressing satisfaction makes it easier for consumers to complain, as well as to praise. But it’s far more useful (and safer) that they complain to you than that they post their dissatisfaction to their Facebook page.

Consumer satisfaction results may also be an important part of the collection of information by the SILC as they determine the independent living needs of people with disabilities in your state and evaluate the effectiveness of the State Plan for Independent Living in meeting its objectives. The states where CILs and the SILC come together to develop a unified approach to collecting consumer feedback usually have an easier time publishing reports that educate legislators, funders, and the general public about the value of the Independent Living Program.

Resources for a Deeper Dive

Using Consumer Satisfaction Information for Planning,  ( On-demand webinar (2013) presented by CIL and SILC representatives from Missouri and West Virginia.