Discusses how consumer evaluation studies of health-care services might be undertaken to provide valid assessments of consumer opinions and priorities, amenable to subsequent, effective management action. To do so, provides an account of the history of patient satisfaction surveys, presents a detailed examination of key examples, and discusses the well-documented strengths and weaknesses of this approach. Draws attention to recent critiques of survey methods and growing interest in qualitative research focusing on the rationale that the latter provides more useful data for managers. Argues that the search for a "best" consumer evaluation method is misplaced since appropriate methods should be determined by research objectives which themselves may vary. Points to existing analyses of relevant research which offer sound methodological guidelines and concludes by offering explicit suggestions for the future conduct of consumer evaluation research.