May 24, 2008 By Bill Bott
Here's a fun exercise: For the next month, seek out and complete every survey and customer comment card you are offered. I warn you, this exercise isn't for the faint of heart, as they will be everywhere! The truth is, we are so inundated with surveys that we ignore most of them. Accept this challenge and by the end of the 30 days, you'll be amazed at how many organizations seem interested in obtaining your feedback with the implied goals of improving service and exceeding your needs.
During my month of surveying the surveys, several recurring themes made me question the effectiveness of these widely accepted tools. The most revealing finding was that almost a year later, I haven't seen one process change at the restaurants where I eat, the hotels I stay in, my gym, my bank or my barber. It may appear that these cards are the fabric that keeps organizations running, but I've peeked behind the curtain, and more often than not, our comments are given less consideration than we give to filling out the surveys.
Let's analyze a classic survey on a five-point scale and see if any of these sound familiar.
1: Very Unsatisfied - Strongly Disagree
When I get bad service, the last thing I want to do is tell someone about it on paper. I may want to scream at someone, but more often than not, self-control gets the better of me and I choose to tell them about my disapproval by never coming back. If I bring my truck in for new tires and leave with a four-inch scratch in the door, I'm not sure a comment card is going to accurately capture my feelings at that moment, or if any response could possibly convince me to return for future service. The damage is done and I want to go home.
2: Unsatisfied - Somewhat Disagree
In addition to reaching me after the damage is done, comment cards never seem to ask the questions I want to answer. I recently purchased some new computer hardware online. The electronic survey that came two weeks later asked if I found what I was looking for on the Web site, if the product was reasonably priced, if shipping time was acceptable and if the product met my needs - along with a host of demographic questions seemingly more interested in marketing than customer satisfaction. What was not on the survey was the biggest disappointment I experienced: the time it took to install due to the lack of adequate instructions. That question was conveniently left off the survey.