The world is going survey happy

Practically everywhere I turn these days someone is handing me a survey.

Last week alone I must have received three surveys from servers in restaurants. These are the kinds that ask us to go online, enter a number, receive a discount coupon for a next visit, and even win a prize. Another similar survey from an office products store also asked me to go online.

That doesn’t include the several that popped up after I made online purchases. One popup survey asked about my “experience” visiting their website. Well, not only didn’t I buy anything but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So I didn’t answer.

Some of the surveys that arrive as emails are quite long. I think the one that lands in my inbox following any service on my car must be the longest. My guess is that it contains about 40 questions –– many of which are extremely repetitive. (A high-powered marketing/testing firm obviously designed the survey because it asks the same question several times but in different ways. An old trick to get to try to get to the truth.) I love my car, but seem to have difficulty finding a dealership that I really like. (Well, there is one, but it’s over 1,200 miles away.) So I’m forced to use one of the local boys.

There was one time that a local dealership sent a survey that I answered unfavorably –– perhaps enthusiastically unfavorably. That produced an automated response from the general manager inviting me to call. Well, you know me. My thought was if they were really concerned about my satisfaction or lack thereof, that someone would have picked up the phone and called me. But they didn’t. So I placed the call and wandered around from one voicemail prompt to the next until I ultimately hung up the phone. I didn’t want to leave a message, play phone tag, and add to my current level of aggravation.

Two days later another automated email arrived from the dealership. This time, it was from the owner of the dealership. That email invited me to contact him by email. I clicked the link and explained my situation and dissatisfaction in considerable detail. I reread, edited, and proofed my note several times and, when I was fully satisfied that I had expressed myself eloquently, pressed SEND. Two minutes later another automated response: No such email address.

The way I see it, a business shouldn’t have to ask my opinion. If they’re alert… if they’re really paying attention… they know if I’m happy or not.

One clue is the size of the tip I leave following a meal in a restaurant. Another is how many times I return to spend more money.

The survey I like the best is when someone takes the time to look me straight in the eye, smile and, knowing quite well that they did perform masterfully, asks: “Mr. Effron, was everything to your complete satisfaction?” And when I smile back and say, “Absolutely,” they know they received my highest score. As I see it, there’s only one question that ever needs to be asked.

And if they see anything less than a big happy smiley face and hear an enthusiastic “YES,” they need to probe and do whatever it takes… not only to get you to return again… but to do it in such a way that you want to tell your friends and colleagues about how great they are to do business with.

The sad thing is that I sometimes wonder if businesses really want to know how well or poorly they did. After all, if you say you’re unhappy, they’re pretty much obligated to do something to fix it and make it right. And doing something could cost them more than losing you as a customer. That’s even sadder!

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